Is Zilker Park the new Greenbelt–or is Austin just growing up?
To celebrate the arrival of spring, my friends and I hit Zilker Park last Saturday to soak up the sun, have a picnic, and drink a little something something. To our surprise, it was packed.
Basking bodies strewn across the meadow in Kite Festival-like proportions. From the soccer fields to Rock Island to the volleyball courts all the way clear to MOPAC, nothing but skin and picnic blankets. Dogs darted through the crowds. And not surprisingly, music from all ends of the spectrum danced across the meadow like an iPod version of ACL.
It was the type of scene that used to play out at Campbell’s Hole on the Greenbelt–except this scene had a grownup vibe. Instead of teens drumming in bacchanalian fits, there were hipsters calmly playing cards against humanity. And instead of a dense cloud of weed smoke, young families sipped bubbles and beers while their children tumbled around in the grass.
And the grown up feel wasn’t just about the people there. It’s like Austin is growing up. Not surprising: As a city’s population increases, its public spaces transform into shared spaces that build a sense of community and become the fabric of city social life. It happens on the weekends in Berlin’s MauerPark (killer Karaoke), New York’s Sheep’s Meadow, and San Francisco’s Dolores Park (hipsters in slow motion video). And my gut tells me it’s going to get more and more crowded as the season progresses because it’s more accessible than the Greenbelt, the grass is always lush and green, drinking is questionably allowed allowed, and MAN that view is amazing.
But folks, listen: There are an ish ton of us trying to do the same thing at the same time. We gotta think about the impact that has on the other inhabitants of the city. It’s causing an increase in trash, an increase in Police resources, and an effing mess of traffic. Seriously, the entire time we were there, there was a non-stop river of idle cars waiting to leave and waiting to park.
So I want to challenge us to think about how we want to use this shared space. What do we want to transform it into? And how do we decrease the impact of our use?
I’ll start it off: Ride a bike! Better yet, form a bike gang and all hit the park together! Seriously, if you’re in a herd, it’s not so bad.
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