Park Beat

Austin's newest park branches into bustling east side neighborhood

Austin's newest park branches into bustling east side neighborhood

Branch Park mueller development
The playscape was made of recycled materials. Courtesy photo
Branch Park mueller development
A custom-built airplane is sure to be a hit with kids (and probably a few adults). Courtesy photo
Branch Park mueller development
Park designers relied on native plants for landscaping.  Courtesy photo
Branch Park mueller development
Branch Park mueller development
Branch Park mueller development

Austin is about to welcome another swath of parkland into the city core. On May 17, Branch Park will officially debut in the Mueller development, bringing 3.5 acres of greenspace to this bustling part of town.

Nestled into 2101 Aldrich St., the park features a playscape, complete with a custom airplane for kids to climb; sand volleyball courts; a dog run; adaptive landscaping; and a very unique water feature.

The waterscape — certain to be ground zero during scorching mid-summer temperatures — was designed to "emulate the way water flows in Central Texas," according to a rep.

"With a push of a button, park goers can operate bubblers and jets that represent rain. The water then channels through an area that resembles a Hill Country stream before it spills out of limestone cliff blocks onto a stone surface to offer an interactive experience for people of all ages."

While it may be Austin's newest recreational space, Branch Park's namesake is a legendary part of the city's history. The park was named in honor of Mary Elizabeth Branch, a Virginia native born in 1881 to former slaves. According to the nonprofit Texas State Historical Association, Branch served as the president of Tillotson College beginning in 1930 until her death in 1944.

During her tenure, Branch oversaw the merging of Tillotson, then operating as a women's college, with Samuel Huston College to become the co-educational Huston-Tillotson University. While in Austin, Branch was also active in the Civil Rights Movement, and served as president of the Austin chapter of the NAACP and United Negro College Fund.

Community members are invited to take part in a grand opening celebration on May 17 from 6-7:30 pm. Guests can tour the park and enjoy musical performances, a bubble musician, photo booth, and more.