The Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) held a meeting Nov. 7 about an off-leash area that has been proposed for Mabel Davis District Park. This was a follow-up to a meeting held June 27 at Linder Elementary.
There were no spoken presentations at the November meeting, but several posters gave information on the proposed park, and city staff and Bill Fraser, chairman of the Off-Leash Area Advisory Committee (OLAAC), were there to answer questions.
The presentations are available online. A PDF shows an aerial photo of the south end of the park, including the pond where a spring forms the headwaters of Country Club Creek, which is adjacent to the planned off-leash area. It also shows similar off-leash areas in other cities, the city’s rationale for wanting to put a dog park at Mabel Davis, and some community concerns that were expressed at the previous meeting.
You also can see what people wrote on comment cards at the Nov. 7 meeting. Some residents support an off-leash area, while others have concerns about its safety, maintenance and environmental impact.
Off-leash area background: The city has 11 OLAs in Austin, two of them east of I-35. Parks and Recreation wants to add more OLAs, especially in areas near apartments.
A 1.6-acre off-leash area (OLA) is proposed for the site of the former baseball diamond at Mabel Davis, just south of the swimming pool. The uses of that land are limited because it is the site of a contaminated former landfill.
PARD has proposed a design that avoids penetrating a protective clay cap over the landfill by covering the ground with 2 inches of sand, a brightly colored geotextile fabric, and a 12-inch layer of mulch. The fence around the OLA would be anchored in a ribbon of concrete that would sit on the current grade and would not penetrate the soil. The theory is that activity would uncover the geotextile fabric, signaling staff or volunteers to add more mulch, before the soil can erode.
However, the city does not have the staff or the budget to maintain all its parks, so it encourages individuals or groups to adopt parks. Volunteers in the Adopt-a-Park program help with enforcement, maintenance and other activities. The Watershed Protection department also has a Scoop the Poop program to encourage people to clean up pet waste and prevent water contamination. The nonprofit Austin Parks Foundation also helps maintain city parks.
Mabel Davis Park background: The City of Austin bought 50 acres to create the park in 1974. Originally a gravel pit, the area operated as St. Edward’s Municipal Waste Landfill from 1944-1955. But even after the landfill closed, it was illegally used as a dumping site, including for toxic materials such as pesticides and lead battery casings.
The contamination was discovered in 1999, and the park was closed for a 5½-year, $10 million remediation project. An 18-inch clay cap over the former landfill is covered with soil to form a layer 30 inches deep. The worst contamination was at the site of the former baseball diamond, but a sports field and many other activities are no longer allowed at that site, because irrigation or erosion of the clay cap could cause more contamination. (For more information on the remediation, see pages 3-5 of a publication from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.)
Contacts: Learn more about the Parks and Recreation Department’s off-leash areas online. The city liaisons are park planner Ricardo Soliz (974-9452) and landscape architect D’Anne Williams (974-9456). You also can e-mail comments to MabelDavisParkOffLeashArea@ci.austin.tx.us.