Pease Park Conservancy receives $9.7 million grant to fund renovations

Nicole Stuessy

Updated picnic areas and restrooms, new play areas and a new multi-use facility are coming to Pease Park next year with the help of a $9.7 million grant from the Moody Foundation.

Designing and planning will begin in early 2018 as phase one of the Pease Park Conservancy’s Pease Park Master Plan. This phase focuses on the lower six acres of the park, known as Kingsbury Commons.

“What the Moody Foundation’s grant is going to do is to allow us to actually start the design and construction of revitalizing this portion of the park that has been planned since 2014,” said Kristen Brown, CEO of Pease Park Conservancy. “It’s been a long awaited time to get started on this project.”

Executive director Andrew Gill said one of the attractions that will be added in this phase is an educational treehouse play area.

“It will have an educational and recreational theme that will be the first of its kind in Austin,” Gill said. “It will kind of tell the story of Austin’s history and the importance of our urban canopy but also have some play features that kind of tie the educational and the recreational features together.”

Gill said when the Pease Park Conservancy started renovating the park in 2008, UT students played a big role in helping, and that role continues today.

“Tree planting, invasive species removal, trail building and planting new wildflower and pollinator gardens — none of that would’ve been possible without any of the student service organizations that come out,” Gill said. “I’m very confident in saying that the vast majority (of) our volunteer network is significantly comprised of UT students.”

One of the main student organizations that helps at Pease Park is the Texas Wranglers.

“We’ve been going out to Pease Park to help with general park maintenance,” said Jack Whelan, Pease Park chair for Texas Wranglers. “It really depends mostly on what they need, and then we’ve also done some projects.”

Whelan, who is a mechanical engineering sophomore, said his volunteer work has made his experiences at the park more meaningful.

“The volunteer opportunities that they provide are pretty special,” Whelan said. “It’s one thing to go out and hang out in the park, but when you actually get to go out and fix up the park and then go back and see the trails that you’ve made and the flower beds you’ve helped plant, you feel more connected to it.”