Thursday, March 2, 2023

Austin's Parks and Recreation Department Receives Two Awards

Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) was honored with two awards by the Texas Recreation and Parks Society (TRAPS) in ceremonies at the association’s annual institute in Frisco on March 2, 2023. Pan American Neighborhood Park was honored with designation as a Lone Star Legacy Park, and PARD’s Historic Preservation and Tourism Program won the Promotions & Marketing Excellence Award – Class I for the production of the documentary Parque Zaragoza: Communidad, Cultura, y Resiliencia

Pan American Neighborhood Park is 5.23-acre park located at 2100 East Third Street in East Austin. Although the park and recreation center moved to this location in 1956, the roots go back to 1940 when the former Comal School building was transformed into the Latin American Community Center by the National Youth Administration (NYA), one of the 1930s New Deal programs that brought federal investment to communities across the country. By 1946, Austin’s Recreation Department assumed management of the center.

In 1956, a new Pan American Recreation Center opened in the newly created Pan American Park adjacent to Zavala Elementary School. The new recreation center was the first in the city designed and built by the City of Austin for recreation purposes, and it was the first time a municipal park and recreation center were used to support a school in Austin. The famous and popular Hillside Theater was added at the base of the grassy hill beside the center in 1958. Today, Pan American Park is a physical reminder of the significance of this public space in the cultural history of Austin’s diverse community. A Lone Star Legacy Park is a park that holds special prominence in the local community and the state of Texas. 

Parque Zaragoza: Communidad, Cultura, y Resiliencia is a short documentary about Parque Zaragoza, established in 1931 as the first public park for Austin’s Mexican American community. The video features community members and former PARD staff members recounting the remarkable history of a park that emerged from discriminatory city plans and policies, overt racism, and systemic inequities that pushed that pushed the Mexican American community into East Austin. Having only a small playground for themselves, community leaders formed an organization to lobby the city for a full-sized park of their own.

Throughout its history, Parque Zaragoza has hosted many of the largest Cinco de Mayo and Diez y Seis celebrations in Austin. Residents recall vividly festivities spanning four-day weekends where families from across the county would travel to the park with makeshift tents, food, and brightly colored traditional outfits. Highlights would include parades, barbeques, live music, and dancing. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the park’s namesake, General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín. 

The documentary was produced by PARD’s Historic Preservation and Tourism Program. Funding for the documentary was made possible through the City of Austin Historic Preservation Fund in partnership with the Economic Development Department’s Heritage Tourism Division. Parque Zaragoza: Communidad, Cultura, y Resiliencia was selected from over 140 submissions for this award.

About Texas Recreation and Parks Society
TRAPS is a non-profit 501(c)3 professional and educational organization founded in 1937 with a membership of over 2,000 Park and Recreation professionals. TRAPS is committed to advancing the field of parks, recreation and leisure services in Texas, while advocating for enhanced recreation opportunities and the increase of public green space for Texans.