This April, Decipher City produced a (draft) report on Parks and Access in the City of Austin for review by the Parks and Recreation Department. Like all departments in the City of Austin, PARD is currently working with the Equity Office to assess its projects and programs and determine where there might be gaps in both equitable outcomes and processes.
The report was meant to help with that diagnosis. To their credit, PARD is aware (and has been told by community members) that there is a perception of different levels of service and of priority from one neighborhood to another. Our hope is that we were able to provide a little bit of insight into why. Below are some brief highlights from the report. (The full report is attached at the end of this document). We found equity issues fell into three main categories: budgets/spending, outreach/representation, and access:
Park Spending and Budgets:
- The contributions of advocacy groups in wealthy neighborhoods towards their own parks creates a gap in quality of services and a perception that Austin parks in low income areas are not cared for.
- Reported program spending in the 2017-18 budget is inadequately transparent or detailed. They do not break out spending by location or population served.
- There is no visibility around the collection and deployment of park fees collected in lieu of park dedication; the same is true of fees collected for the private use of parks by outside entities.
Outreach and Representation:
- Literature and promotional materials for PARD show predominately white or light skinned individuals and in some cases PARD employees of color appear to be paid less than their white counterparts.
- The city website is difficult for an average layperson to use or glean relevant information from.
- PARD appears to promote or highlight certain parks on its website but not others. parks in East Austin are not adequately advertised.
- Park coverage is reported through a ratio method (acres per person) and PARD appears to only have two service areas–north and south. This is an insufficient analysis of neighborhood and community level park access.
- PARD does not take into account the lack of road connectivity, sidewalk cover, or bus service in addressing access to its parks.
Decipher City has a user-centered approach. This means that as a group, we care both about the measurable impacts of a program and its perception in the community. Initiatives that do not incorporate appropriate outreach measures, engaging in coalition building with citizens and providing interpretation of laws or policies so that they can be easily understood, will leave communities behind. See Full report below for more: