Three thousand volunteers will work to clean up hundreds of Austin parks Saturday for Austin’s “It’s My Park Day.” Volunteers will put in over 10,000 hours of work — the equivalent of a quarter of a million dollars in labor costs.
Austin Parks Foundation’s 13th annual It’s My Park Day is a city-wide, volunteer-powered clean up of Austin’s parks. The event focuses on spring maintenance projects including mulching trees, repairing trials, planting native plants and general park maintenance.
Ladye Anne Wofford, programs director for Austin Parks Foundation, studied geography and environmental research management at UT. She said although it is easy to be caught up in campus life, getting involved with the greater Austin community opens students’ eyes to new places and possibilities.
“To me, part of the magic of It’s My Park day is the tremendous impact that we have when we all work together as a community,” Wofford said. “My hope is that through this event, students will discover more of Austin’s parks and join our volunteers who work to preserve and improve those parks year-round.”
Wofford said even if students see themselves as temporary residents of Austin, the community connections students form while volunteering are part of why It’s My Park Day is beneficial to the community and the individual.
“Even if people don’t plan on living here the rest of their lives, or after they graduate college, I do think through volunteering they can make really beneficial connections that could help them in the future,” Wofford said.
Geography sophomore Emma Hines said she plans to attend the event with the UT Geography Society. She said although prioritizing volunteer work can be a challenge, she feels a sense of accomplishment when she surveys the work she has completed at the end of the day. Being outside is an added benefit, Hines said.
“Getting outside in general and getting some fresh air is so refreshing,” Hines said. “You don’t realize how much you miss being outside until you’re actually out there working.”
Hines said programs like “It’s My Park Day” are vital to the community because they educate and encourage people to be apart of preserving Austin’s natural beauty.
“Especially as the city grows, these volunteer opportunities get the people outside to really appreciate what this city has going for it,” Hines said. “I think without these volunteer programs people wouldn’t value it as much.”
Geography sophomore Cara McConnell said she is often disheartened by the conditions parks are in when the volunteers first arive, and said maintaining a positive attitude is a challenge. She said it helps knowing people care about cleaning Austin up and turning it into a space their community can enjoy.
“With any volunteering opportunity, you feel like you helped and met cool, like-minded people,” McConnel said. “They make it easy to participate, and it’s really fulfilling to see it dirty before then see it clean afterwards.”
Wofford said attendance has grown since It’s My Park Day’s launch over a decade ago, proving that, although the city is growing rapidly, residents care about keeping Austin beautiful.
“The name of the projects is ‘It’s My Park Day,’ so I feel like, if your going to use the park, you should participate in cleaning it up and making it nice and making it presentable for not only yourself but for other people.” Hines said.