Tag Archives: AuditoriumShores

BCNA Letter to Austin Parks & Recreation Board

BCNA opposes the proposed design for the Auditorium Shores Parkland Improvement Project because it does not consider the enormous feedback from park users to eliminate a fenced-in dog area.  Additionally, the agreement between the Parks department (PARD), Austin Parks Foundation (APF) and C3 presents (sponsors of the ACL music festival) refers to the parkland at Auditorium Shores as a ‘major event venue’.  This agreement was signed on November 14, 2013 and C3 requires the city to significantly decrease the off-leash area and install a fenced-in dog park, contrary to public input.

Below is the letter I sent out this evening to the Parks and Recreation Board.  They will be meeting at City Hall on Tuesday evening, 6pm and I plan to present BCNA’s opposition to the design.

 

Dear Austin Parks & Recreation Board Members,

 

While Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association (BCNA) wholeheartedly agrees that Auditorium Shores is in desperate need of turf and irrigation renovations, we remain opposed to the proposed design of the Parkland Improvement Project which severely curtails the amount of space available for off-leash dogs, one of the most popular uses of this parkland area and a use that has been protected by City ordinance for several decades.

 

We understand the timely nature of beginning the project while the trailhead is under construction but PARD and TBG need to be more responsive to the public feedback that questions the current “three meadow” design as being too private-event oriented and too unfriendly to public use, especially by dog owners.  It is a public park, after all, and we feel the current design excludes hundreds, if not thousands, of its’ most enthusiastic “public” park users.

 

Additionally, the Park Land Improvement Agreement (“Contract”) between PARD, APF and C3 repeatedly refers to Auditorium Shores as a ‘major event venue’.  Town Lake Metropolitan Park, as per the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Plan and the Town Lake Master Plan, envisions the Auditorium Shores/Parkland area as a versatile public space that is available for a limited number of public/private events.

 

Auditorium Shores is a Major public park and a Minor venue site.  It should not be the other way around.  BCNA believes it is not in the best interest of our residents if this parkland is considered a Major Event venue.  The current annual 25-event-day maximum is meant to ensure that Auditorium Shores keeps the identity of a Major public park while also keeping its’ balanced use intact.

BCNA is disappointed that we have not been engaged earlier during the design process.  BCNA is a major stakeholder at Auditorium because Town Lake Metropolitan Park is located with Bouldin Creek’s Neighborhood Plan.  We are concerned that the proposed design to segregate dogs into a fenced-in area, which is opposed by an enormous majority of public park users,  directly conflicts with the FLUM designation for the area as “Park” or “Public Use”.

 

Furthermore, BCNA has been alerted that an agreement between PARD, APF & C3 was signed on November 14, 2013 regarding the scope of the parkland improvement project.  The agreement defines the park as a “major event venue” and BCNA clearly disagrees.   As a stakeholder of the park, why weren’t we notified of this agreement and given an opportunity to review it before its’ execution?

 

Even though I received a copy of the revised design from a Council aide on Friday, BCNA still feels the design is problematic due the continued insistence of installing fences on public parkland to segregate use.  Thus, we respectfully ask the Park and Recreation Board Members to oppose the design, direct PARD to go back to the drawing table by engaging with Austin taxpayers, not C3, to create a balanced design for multiple uses by park users first and foremost, and event-attendees second.

 

Respectfully yours,

Cyndi Collen, President, BCNA

 

 

Auditorium Shores: A Beloved Park by All or an Event Venue for Some

In the early ’80s I spent lots of time at Auditorium Shores and enjoyed free or cheap music events like Stevie Ray Vaughan or The Talking Heads.

I’ve travelled and lived all over the globe since then but always remembered  the experience as uniquely Austin, which is one of the reasons I moved back in 2009.   When I returned I had a little more

money and three puppies in tow.  I took the three pups to the park nearly every day where I slowly trained them to socialize and walk leash-free in a safe manner.  My main goal was for both of us to get exercise as we were constantly moving.  But I reaped many more benefits than just good exercise.  Me and my pups found pure joy at the Auditorium Shores parkland.

Joy from watching my dogs, and others, play and run about happily, freely and safely.  Joy from communing with an open green space environment, which I do not have currently as an urban dweller.  And joy from becoming mindful of how this parkland, across from a growing metropolitan-like downtown, creates the perfect balance where old-Austin and new-Austin can co-mingle on both sides of Town Lake (oops, Lady Bird Lake).

I agree that the parkland at Auditor

ium Shores has been loved to death and is in desperate need for improvement.  I disagree that the degradation of the turf is solely due to dogs (as is stated in the contract C3 has with PARD and APF).   The design proposed by PARD will prevent turf degradation but at a huge expense to park users as their use will be restricted.

When the design was first presented to Jesse Bennight and I in May or June, there was no mention of a reduction of the off-leash area.  When the design was presented at the BCNA GA meeting by PARD on June, there was no mention of the reduction of the off-leash area.   I posted the proposed design on this web-site and touted the renovations will restore our precious parkland so it could become the crown jewel within our city’s park system.

photo-8

It wasn’t until mid-September when PARD held a public input meeting where they announced the leash restrictions.   The ‘Event Lawn” (about 6 acres) would ban dogs entirely; the “Middle Event Lawn” (about 7 acres) would require dogs on-leash; and a 3.2acre fenced-in dog park, where dogs could be off-leash, was located at the west end.   PARD claimed this was due to safety concerns but had zero data to support the segregation of the dogs.

Attendees at the public input meetings, mostly pro off-leash advocates, asked for design alternatives where safety on the trails and off-leash dogs could co-exist.  Suggestions were made by attendees on how this could be accomplished but the suggestions (“public input”) were ignored and dismissed.

I was incensed that the input was considered invalid and wondered why public input from park users and taxpayers regarding their use of public parkland was not considered for the design.  If Austinites weren’t influencing the design then who was and why does the design seem to require a small fenced-in dog park as part of the improvement?  C3.

On November 14, 2013 the City of Austin, the Austin Parks Foundation, and C3 entered into a contract that defined the criteria of how C3’s $3.5m donation was to be used.  A 3.2acre fenced-in ‘off-leash’ area was written into the contract before the design was voted on by City Council (the design is on the 12/12 Agenda).   You can view the contract here: C3 APF COA agreement Aud Shores

If C3 wanted to be purely philanthropic in their desire to give back to Austin, they could have donated the money to the Austin Parks Foundation, as other entities do, in the form of a conservancy which would  require the funds to protect the natural resources and environment of the park.  This was not the case for Auditorium Shores.   Thus, the big question is: What would C3 gain from the currently proposed design?

I am not sure as C3 has repeatedly said they have had no part in the design process but they also forgot to mention that they signed a contract with the city that required a certain design.

But I do have a theory:  More events could be held on the main event lawn, the middle event lawn, or both, and event producers, like C3, can say dog owners can still have access to an off-leash area during events.  Of course, the Tur Partners consulting gig, paid for by C3, gives ample evidence for my theory.  Read their preliminary report here:  TUR Preliminary Report 5-8-13

The proposed design and the off-leash area reduction is on Council’s agenda next week but increasing the 25-event-day maximum is not.   So why am I so incensed?

Anyone remember when F1 wanted to have two outdoor shows at Auditorium Shores last year?  My tenure as BCNA President began with a meeting between PARD and F1 asking BCNA to support additional event-days at Auditorium Shores.   I was vocal about our opposition to adding any event-days, even if it was for an ad hoc event, as F1 was claiming.   However, Mayor Leffingwell called me personally to ask me and BCNA to support the F1 event and invited me to meetings with his staff to work out the details.   The resolution the Mayor had authored that would have authorized PARD to allow the F1 event to take place contained a a brief clause at the end that also authorized PARD (and I am paraphrasing here) to increase the event-day limit when the turf and irrigation system is renovated.

The Mayor ended up pulling the resolution, thanks to the Junior League, which means the language within the resolution has disappeared forever as I did not make a copy of it.  But I have not forgotten it.  The Mayor’s staff envisioned the F1 event would also close down the S 1st Bridge so that event attendees could then walk downtown and spend more of their out-of-town money.  The Mayor and aides couldn’t understand why Bouldin residents would object to an event that was going to provide incredible ‘economic benefits’ to the City.  Our quality-of-life did not seem important to the mayor which is funny because ‘economic benefits’ don’t vote.  Or do they?

Fast forward fourteen months and I feel like its August 2012 all over again. But this time around PARD staff has learned their lesson.  They learned to not talk about the event-day limit or the C3 influenced design and it appears their strategy was never to collect public input that would inform the functional design of the park.  Instead, us taxpayers are being sold on why we should like the park design.   It seems like we are meant to trust PARD and C3 because they know whats best for us. Call me cynical, but I trust Bouldin residents and park users to know whats best and I have a feeling most of us think we need a different design.

Austin Post: Dogs to Be Banned from Auditorium Shores Lawn

Dogs to Be Banned from Auditorium Shores Lawn

Tuesday Meeting Offers Last Chance for Public Comment

By Kayte VanScoy | OCTOBER 7, 2013

The final opportunity for public comment on reducing the off-leash area at Auditorium Shores is happening Tuesday night, October 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Dougherty Arts Center. More info here.

Story is from the Austin Post, http://www.austinpost.org/outdoors/dogs-be-banned-auditorium-shores-lawn

—————————————————————-

It’s been heralded in the Statesman, the Chronicle, the Daily Texan, on KUT and on local TV news as the greatest thing since F1 came to town: C3, the concert promoter that puts on ACL Fest, recently donated $3.5 million to the City of Austin for the restoration of Auditorium Shores. All but one report failed to mention, however, that C3’s plans mean that the current use of the park’s six-acre lawn as an off-leash dog park will end. In fact, when the lawn re-opens, dogs will no longer be allowed on it at all – on or off the leash. Dogs at the park will be relegated to a narrow corridor along the waterfront, west of their current access.

 

Although the park is known for events like Fun Fun Fun Fest, it is used for events just over 5 percent of the year. The rest of the time, for thousands of dog owners, Auditorium Shores is the premiere amenity in the city. Its wide lawn with access to Lady Bird Lake has provided one of the few designated off-leash areas in Austin for decades.

While C3’s gift is sorely needed, these changes are unwelcome and shocking to some dog owners, who have mostly heard about them by word of mouth because the media has focused on praising C3 for providing the funds for improvements to the dog park without detailing the actual plan.

Anyone who has watched the formerly green park lawn turn into six acres of hardscrabble dirt during the current drought is likely to assume that “improvements to the dog park” mean that the dog park will be improved. In reality, they are losing half the acreage of the current site—a wide, rectangle of uninterrupted lawn—and trading it for a narrow space along the water. At C3’s request, once restored, the lawn will be completely off-limits to dogs and will not be replaced by any comparable open space.

 

 

 

Of those dog owners who have caught wind of the change, the clear majority are unhappy. At two meetings so far—a small gathering of 20 dog owners at the park in July and an angry gathering of 60 just last week—the feedback has been overwhelmingly negative from dog owners, who are the majority users of the Auditorium Shores park for the over-300 days of the year when there are no events. Parks Department staff is playing defense, saying that dog owners should have known that restriction from the lawn was imminent.

True, improving waterfront access for dogs has been planned for over ten years. A seemingly endless paradeof public design processesstakeholder committees and architectural competitions have each identified moving water access west and adding dog-friendly features as key park upgrades—always assuming, however, that such improvements would be additions to the off-leash lawn, not a replacement of it.

Public Planning at the Speed of Private Business

So, if these plans have been around so long, how has this new development managed to take dog owners (to say nothing of event planners) by surprise? It’s a long, convoluted tale that starts with a bond election in 1998 that approved funding for four stages of redevelopment to the Palmer Events Center-Auditorium Shores area. Stages and I and II went forward, and we got the whimsical, though half-realized, Butler Park and the parking garage along Barton Springs Road.

Stage III was set for Auditorium Shores to see a host of improvements including irrigation, new turf and mitigation of the awkward intersection between the hike-and-bikers heading east–west on the trail and the off-leash dogs running north–south from lake to lawn. Most plans for the area posited moving the trail and expanding the lawn area by closing Riverside Drive, but that was not to be. With the majority of the features proposed in Stages I and II still not built, the City announced in 2003 that there was not enough money to execute any more of the master plan that voters had approved.

(What happened to the cash from car rental taxes, which was supposed to be filling coffers daily? The City said it needed the money to pay salaries for the operation of Palmer. However, critics—who include a broad coalition from neighborhood activists to former city council members to designers of the park itself—point to millions in bonuses paid to City employees in the department that manages Palmer. No other City employees are eligible for such bonuses, over $5 million of which have been paid out from the rental-car fund since 2001.)

As controversy roiled over Butler Park, Palmer and Auditorium Shores, years ticked by and park improvements waited. And waited. In the meantime, event attendance, city population and, most importantly, daily use of downtown parks, has skyrocketed. Enter C3, which has built its events empire by leveraging city parks, events that have drawn over $150 million per year in business to Austin. Rather than suffer through another year of hosting events on dusty Auditorium Shores, C3 chose to step up and offer to fulfill the park’s master plan—with one change: no dogs allowed on the Auditorium Shores lawn.

As a C3-backed project, the redevelopment is now proceeding at lightning speed compared to any other development on city land in living memory. C3’s gift was announced less than six months ago, public input is still being collected and impact studies are still being done, but construction on the waterfront dog park is set to begin this month, and bids for the construction are already out.

 

As noted above, several events that use Auditorium Shores—most notably Fun Fun Fun Fest (which is not a C3 event)—have been forced to scramble to relocate. This is public planning at the speed of private business. While public-private partnerships are necessary, and C3 is a valuable partner—rivaling SXSW in its contribution to business revenue citywide and contributing over $12 million to their venues/our parks since 2006—it is worth asking whether it isproper to so heavily favor one small, private businesswith directing the development and allowed uses of our city’s premiere public parks. Are Zilker’s Great Lawn and Auditorium Shores still Austin parks, or are they really venues that we are allowed to use when the stages are broken down?

One wonders, too, about the off-leash dog park on the Great Lawn, where C3’s ACL Fest is held and where they have donated millions for restoration and upkeep of the lawn. If dogs are okay for Zilker, why not for Auditorium Shores? Or will it turn out to be just the opposite: once C3 succeeds in moving dogs off of the Auditorium Shores lawn, can Zilker’s Great Lawn be far behind?

If you’re itching to make your voice heard on this matter, the last opportunity for public comment is happening Tuesday night, October 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Dougherty Arts Center. Or, you could always email city staff, the Parks Foundation, the Parks and Rec board, or C3. 

Meeting Regarding Auditorium Shores Project Tonight, 10/8, 6:30pm, Dougherty Arts Center

It seems there will be, for some, a dilemma for how to spend one’s evening tonight.   Our bi-monthly GA meeting is being held tonight at Vuka and the agenda is packed with informative topics.

Also tonight is the last public input meeting regarding the Parkland Improvement Project at Auditorium Shores.  I find this meeting to be terribly important because, whether you use the park or not, what is at stake is how much influence C3 has over the use of public parkland.

Bull dozers will be coming to Auditorium Shores in January to change the layout of the trails and install a new lawn (and maintenance system).  The City is paying nearly $5m up front for this project and will receive $3.5m back from C3 over the next 5 years.  The access for dogs to go into the water will be moved to improve safety for runners/bikers.

However, the off-leash area will be significantly reduced, which will have other safety issues for dog owners and dogs that are not being addressed.   Also, during the last public input meeting, a PARD official said the reason for the off-leash reduction was due to input from other ‘stakeholders’ but they would not identify these other ‘stakeholders.’

Gary Hyatt told me, when I first became BCNA Prez, that BCNA is the defacto guardian of Auditorium Shores.  We know this treasured park is used by all Austin residents but since it’s in our ‘front yard’, BCNA advocates to support the park’s public use versus private events.

As an owner of three dogs, I moved to the Bouldin Creek neighborhood specifically due to our close proximity to Auditorium Shores.  It is frustrating when most areas of this park are closed due to private events (and their load-in and load-out) but most of us accept this.

However, the drastic reduction of the off-leash area is beyond frustrating as it not only affects dog owners.   This reduction affects all taxpayers as it seems that the City is deferring decisions on how to use public parkland to private enterprises (“stakeholders”) rather than city residents.

TONIGHT is the last chance the public has to ask tough questions regarding the decision making for this project,  6:30 PM, at the Dougherty Arts Center, 1110 Barton Springs Rd.

Here are some of the questions I will be circulating to city officials over the next two weeks:

 1.  Does the private contribution of C3 for improvement on public parkland create a conflict of interest for the City of Austin?  What evidence do taxpayers have that C3 does NOT have influence over the parkland’s public use?

2.  Do COA ordinances / land use / codes provide the authority for the Mayor/City Manager/Council  to significantly decrease the public’s access to city parkland?

3.  Has PARD considered the safety of dog owners and dogs when they reduce the off-leash area?  Has PARD done any research on the effects of numerous off-leash dogs in an area that may not be big enough to accommodate their ability to run, play and socialize?  Could a smaller area contribute to a dog’s instinct to become provocative or aggressive?

Public Meeting On Town Lake Metropolitan Park – Thursday, September 12th

If you use the parkland surrounding Auditorium Shores and/or if you are impacted by the events held in the area, please read on !

Two projects are currently underway for the park.  The first one is the Parkland Improvement project for Auditorium Shores, article on this web-site is here 

The second project is more broad and is a result of a City of Austin Resolution #20121011-081 that directs the Austin Parks Foundation to work  in partnership with Tur Partners, LLC,  to conduct a study that will provide recommendations for enhancing public access and enjoyment of Town Lake Metropolitan Park.  Extensive research, analysis, and community input will generate this long-term vision for the park, delivered in a final report to City Council in April 2014.

Tur Partners is a consulting firm and they need input from Bouldin residents.   Please try to make time in your busy schedule to attend the initial public meeting (called an “Initial Visioning Session”) to impart your feedback.

  • Town Lake Metropolitan Park | Public Visioning Session I

  • Thursday, September 12, 2013

  •  11:30 AM to 1:30 PM

  • The Long Center, 701 West Riverside Drive

This initial visioning session will kick off with a panel discussion featuring visionary leaders and former Mayors Richard M. Daley, Manny Diaz, and Will Wynn.  Richard M. Daley, Mayor of Chicago for 22 years, is now Executive Chairman of the Tur Partners, LLC, the very firm tasked with developing a roadmap for the future of Town Lake Metropolitan Park.  Manny Diaz, former Mayor of Miami, and Will Wynn is the recent two-term Mayor of Austin, who led the city’s lauded transformation for much of the past decade.  The discussion will be moderated by Carol Coletta, Vice President of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Communities and National Initiatives, Director of ArtPlace, and the former President of CEOs for Cities.

The meeting will be the first in a series of public visioning sessions to collect community input that will inform the future vision of Town Lake Metropolitan Park.

Smaller breakout visioning sessions will follow the panel discussion for those who wish to further share their thoughts on Town Lake Metropolitan Park.  A light lunch will be provided for all participants.

For more information, visit Austin Parks Foundation’s Auditorium Shores webpage.