The American Planning Association’s Sustainable Communities Division (SCD) recently honored the Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) with an Award for Excellence in Sustainability. The award is for Our Parks, Our Future, the most recent Long Range Plan that guides the growth and development of Austin’s parks and recreation system.
PARD is one of only eight winners across the country to receive an Excellence in Sustainability Award, which recognizes extraordinary projects, plans, policies, individuals, and organizations whose work is dedicated to supporting sustainable communities. SCD selected PARD for the Open Space Plan or Project category.
Environmental stewardship is central to Our Parks, Our Future. As Austin's population continues to increase, it is essential that the city grow in a way that protects the region’s sensitive natural features and provides opportunities for the community to connect with and learn from the natural environment. The plan recommends adding new parkland acres, increasing natural areas, incorporating stormwater infrastructure, growing the number of community gardens in parks, prioritizing park development along waterways, and conserving parkland in the eastern part of Austin. The plan also addressed social equity by prioritizing projects in areas with elevated poverty and disability rates, less walking access to parks, and a higher percentage of people of color.
“We are honored to receive an Award for Excellence in Sustainability for the Our Parks, Our Future Long Range Plan, and to implement the community's vision for environmental sustainability," said Kimberly McNeeley, Director of PARD.
Every ten years, PARD develops a new Long Range Plan to guide land acquisition, capital improvements, and the development of programs and new amenities to ensure a stronger park system. Our Parks, Our Future reflects the community’s desire for expansion of Austin’s trail system, immersive natural experiences, and expanded arts and culture programming in parks.