Austin’s It’s My Park Day brings volunteers to clean up parks near campus

Hannah Williford

Volunteers spruced up parks across Austin Saturday for It’s My Park Day, a semiannual event that improves parks through trash cleanup, planting and mulching.

Hosted by the Austin Parks Foundation, the effort brings thousands of volunteers to work at almost 100 parks in Austin each March and November, according to the foundation’s website. This year, the volunteers helped parks such as Pease District Park, which is located west of West Campus.

Heath Riddles, CEO of Pease Park Conservancy, said It’s My Park Day brought 100 volunteers from across the community to Pease Park. He said volunteers helped sustain the park by planting wildflowers, cleaning up trash, putting mulch around trees and removing invasive species.

Riddles said these volunteer efforts have been essential to helping improve the poor ecological conditions in the park.

“Volunteer labor has always been the backbone of Pease Park Conservancy’s efforts to sustain the park,” Riddles said. “It was through (the volunteer) effort  that ecological trend reversed, and you see this incredibly thriving ecology that you see today.” 

Environmental science senior Meagan Yates said she volunteered as a freshman and returned this year with her boyfriend. She said she helped by mulching the ground under trees. 

“We’ve always been meaning to come (volunteer), and they do this twice a year, and so it’s been on our calendar for a while,” Yates said. “I used to run at this park a lot … Every time I’ve been here, you see a lot of people our age … running or picnicking or with their dog.”

Riddles said the University also plays an important part in the well-being of Pease District Park. 

“It’s particularly important for us to keep this park vital and healthy and to continue to cultivate relationships with …  students there, because the University of Texas is our biggest user group,” Riddles said. “The students who come over here and use this park are incredibly important to us.” 

Casey Miller, director of community engagement for the park, said community volunteer efforts like It’s My Park Day allow them to focus spending on specialized projects instead of park maintenance.

“(Volunteers) can do so much for us, and it gets them involved in the park and outside in nature enjoying this place,” Miller said. “All we want is people out here.”