City, AISD explore adding ‘pocket parks’ to school grounds

The city of Austin's plan is to have 'pocket parks' within walking distance of every home in Austin (KXAN Photo)
The city of Austin's plan is to have 'pocket parks' within walking distance of every home in Austin (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council gave the green light Thursday for the Parks and Recreation Department and Austin Independent School District to explore an innovate way to provide more public parks in the city. The approach uses space Austin already has.

Aside from the standard swing and slides, it’s the quiet corners of AISD school campuses where Parks and Rec has turned its attention. The two will work together to identify five schools with space for what’s called a “pocket park.” The idea is to transform portions of underutilized public school yard into sectioned-off parks the public can access during the school day.

“It’s a way for us to meet a gap in our service system,” Parks and Rec’s Randy Scott told KXAN. “We would carve out a section of the land, fence it off from the school and have it open to the neighborhood during school hours.”

Developing parks on campus of AISD schools is just one way the city is working to meet a goal set back in 2009. It hopes to have parks and open space within a 1/2 mile walking distance of all Austin homes. Reilly Elementary School is one of roughly 50 schools the department has identified that could help a neighborhood in need.

A mile and a half away at Brentwood Park, Jessica Gorman said everybody should have the same access she and her kids do.

“It helps the kids get outside, burn off energy, enjoy the seasons and kind of meet the neighbors,” Gorman said. “I think more access to the outdoors, more green space, more shared space is great. I mean we’re fortunate in this little pocket neighborhood that we have a lot of opportunities, but having choices is great too.”

The pocket parks could include playgrounds for toddlers, swings, picnic tables and more.

Parks and Rec hopes to break ground on pocket parks in the next six months, starting with five, and expanding the pilot program from there.

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