by Joseph Kanke
I awoke to my alarm clock competing with a thunderous squall line moving across Austin. I know I had been crossing my fingers for a spring rain, but there was no more inopportune day, than It’s My Park. Before I could crack the blinds and assess damage the phone was ringing, “What are we going to do? Most of the parents are saying they don’t want to let their kids out in this weather,” a community warrior resident near the park informed me.
I thought of how excited the kids were last week when we rallied to gain turnout for the event and the stubborn Capricorn inside me was unleashed, “We will be there rain or shine.” I envisioned the Brownie Park I had met six months earlier; a little rain wasn’t going to smolder the embers of our rising phoenix.
In the summer of 2010 Brownie Park was an abandoned lot, consumed by grass, weeds and graffiti. Surveying the park from the road, there was nothing more than a sad jungle gym thrusting its way into the sky, sitting in solitude like an abandoned castle. The drainage system had also helped to amass a small throne of garbage. The question at hand was who had absconded this little jewel and why? With a little persistence from a few neighborhood residents, the grass was clipped to an even keel and the illegible signs were replaced with Parks and Recreation issued tags. But one problem remained: what is a park without people?
As we pulled up to Brownie Park, the wind had pushed the rain to the east and small group of adults stood with dopey grins on their faces and hands shoved in their pockets. This was a start. As the sun broke through the clouds most of us began cleaning up garbage while a small group started the grill and put on some music to catch the attention of neighbors, “Hey we are here!” Soon a bevy of kids with a soccer ball made their way, and within minutes their numbers had grown to twenty. We armed them with old rags and cleaner to wipe down park equipment and sent the older ones off to help with the garbage. The park was suddenly a frenzy of “love your park” t-shirts and whimsical animal masks someone had brought.
After an admirable show of work, it was time to celebrate. The Lanier High School Color Guard brought their flags and bravely tossed them into the gusty wind. The little ones, amassed on the jungle gym, let out gasps of, “Ooooooooooooos” and “Ahhhhhhhhhs”. The performance was followed by fruit, hot dogs, chips and salsa, kickball and two-legged races. Finally, I paused to survey the progress we had made: grass and flowers no longer competing with garbage, a sparkling jungle gym and laughter.
In that moment all of my questions were clear; a park and a community must be built together. Our rising phoenix has taken flight! Already there are plans to drop some plants in a planter on the corner, the possibility of an additional acre to create a green belt, dreams for It’s My Park 2012, and so many new friends. Welcome to Brownie Park!