With its proximity to the University of Texas campus as well as a multitude of neighborhoods around the area, it’s no surprise that Pease Park attracts a lot of visitors. And because of the volume of patrons, whether it’s people playing disc golf, walking their dogs, taking school field trips, using the trails, or playing volleyball, the park has been feeling the effects. Over the years, these activities have taken a toll on Pease Park’s landscape and have come to threaten its ultimate survival.
Pease Park has been a landmark in Austin since Governor and Mrs. E.M. Pease gave the land to the citizens in 1875. The park was then formed in 1926, when the Austin Kiwanis Club committed to beautifying the area. The construction included a rest room, memorial entrance gates, a wading pool, and a low water dam. After the beautification, the park thrived with parties, concerts, Easter egg hunts, and many other public and private functions. Eeyore’s birthday party began in the 1970s and continues to be one of the park’s biggest events every year.
As Austin continues to grow, the Parks Department is responsible for ensuring that Pease Park will be around for future generations. The park is suffering from soil compaction, trampling of vegetation, invasion of non-native plant species, and the reduction of the soil capacity to absorb floodwaters. These conditions were confirmed by an ecological site assessment, and the City of Austin Parks Department is also concerned that there are few young trees growing in the wooded areas to replace the older dying trees. Over 400 new trees have been planted and there are plans in the works with neighbors and park advocates to aid in the restoration process. Unfortunately, the Parks Department has determined that the rocky slopes and narrow configurations do not offer a sustainable environment for the current layout of the heavily used disc golf course. The park must rest if it is to survive, so the course has been closed. The Austin Parks webpage states the department is making it a priority to develop a new and more maintainable course that can withstand the test of time. Matt Young, the Vice Chair on the Board of Directors of the Pease Park Conservancy, and Marty Stump, the Parks and Recreation Department Planning and Development Coordinator, both confirmed that there is no current plan to bring disc golf back to Pease Park. The main agenda is to bring the park to an ecologically stable state, which must happen before a disc golf course can be contemplated.
A Pease Park capital improvement initiative took place in 2011 to improve the water quality in Shoal Creek, repair significant stream bank erosion, and restore healthy soil and vegetation on the creek, and this continues to be the focus of the park’s restoration. The public process efforts have focused on listening to concerns and lending a hand as it relates to the park’s survival. Many volunteers have come out to lend their support to the cause and over $100,000 has been raised by neighbors and park enthusiasts to help fund the improvements the park needs.