New cooperative nonprofit will "honor, preserve, and enhance" every acre of Austin's Zilker Park
The Zilker Area is one of Austin’s largest, most central treasures, and many people have been tasked with taking care of it. Those ranks now include a brand-new nonprofit called Zilker 351 (named for the number of acres in the park), announced on April 3 by a community board of directors.
The organization exists to “honor, preserve, and enhance the natural, cultural, and recreational treasures of [the] 351-acre Zilker Metropolitan Park for all,” according to an exclusive release sent to CultureMap. As most protectors of the park emphasize, this is a matter of long term preservation for “current and future generations.”
Zilker 351 makes its contributions through organizing: addressing needs in advocacy, fundraising, volunteering, and “streamlining communications among the Zilker groups.”
“Our ultimate focus is balancing equitable access for all park visitors with environmental stewardship to ensure an ecologically healthy park for Austin,” said Zilker 351 board member Mike Cannatti, also president of the Barton Springs Conservancy.
Although Austinites may see the park as an open space with minimal infrastructure, it is much larger than many realize. Beyond the Great Lawn and the Barton Springs swimming areas, it also includes the Austin Nature and Science Center, a theater, a nature preserve, fields specifically dedicated to different sports like rugby and baseball, the Violet Crown Trailhead, several parking areas, and more. Annual events that require planning include festivals like Austin City Limits, Blues on the Green, the Trail of Lights, and ABC Kite Festival.
There are many organizations that already work within the park, like the Austin Parks Foundation, the Barton Springs Conservancy, and the city’s own Parks and Recreation Department (PARD). Zilker 351 aims to smooth out communications — not between these specific organizations, but in general across and next to the park — to improve the visitor experience.
PARD heads these communications, but Zilker 351 "intends to establish a PARKnership" with the department to help implementation. Decisions also must go through the Austin City Council before the city can pass off any projects.
“Andrew Zilker said that Zilker Park 'ought to belong to all the people of Austin,'" said Zilker 351 interim executive director Karen Blizzard. “Zilker 351 envisions a park that welcomes all visitors to experience its natural beauty, vibrant programs and recreational opportunities, for years to come. We are thrilled to formally come together as Zilker 351 and be advocates of our city’s crown jewel.”
More information about Zilker 351 is available at zilker351.org, and listed below.
- Jesús Aguirre - CEO, Waterloo Greenway
- Heidi Anderson - CEO, The Trail Conservancy
- Karen Brimble - Cofounder, One Skye Foundation
- Mike Cannatti - Partner, Terrile, Cannatti & Chambers, LLP
- Jason Cheng - Director, DTJ DESIGN, Inc.
- Deena Estrada Salinas - Producer, DeepWell DTX
- Rich Garza - Partner, Giant Noise
- Rachel Green - Global Diversity and Recognition Program Manager, Cloud Go-To-Market
- Evan Taniguchi - Principal/Owner, Taniguchi Architects
- Colin Wallis - CEO, Austin Parks Foundation
Advisory Board-affiliated organizations:
- ABC Kite Festival
- Austin Parks Foundation
- Austin Sunshine Camps
- Barton Springs Conservancy
- Friends of the Austin Nature and Science Center
- Friends of Barton Springs Pool
- Girl Scouts Zilker Cabin
- Hill Country Conservancy
- Rowing DockThe Trail Conservancy
- Trail of Lights Foundation
- UMLAUF Sculpture Garden + Museum
- Waterloo Disc Golf Club
- Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy
- Zilker Park Boat Rentals
- Zilker Theatre Productions