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New nonprofit launches to preserve Zilker Park for current and future generations

Zilker 351 has the mission to "honor, preserve and enhance the natural, cultural and recreational treasures of 351-acre Zilker Park."

AUSTIN, Texas — A 10-member community board of directors announced on Monday the formation of Zilker 351, a nonprofit organization with the mission to "honor, preserve and enhance the natural, cultural and recreational treasures of 351-acre Zilker Metropolitan Park for all."

In 2022, The Austin Parks and Recreation Department released its Zilker Park Vision Plan draft. The plan includes adding more parking garages, pedestrian bridges and also some changes to Barton Springs Road. 

Karen Blizzard, interim executive director of Zilker 351, said the park has never really had a comprehensive planning process like that, so members saw it as an opportunity to be a part of the action. 

"The park was formed in the '30s, and that's a long time to go without a comprehensive plan, so we saw that as an opportunity. So we started having those conversations, and then when the plan drafts started to come out, we would review them, talk about what we thought worked and didn't work and give feedback to the design team," said Blizzard. 

Zilker 351 includes an advisory board with representation from 16 nonprofit organizations and vendors that operate within and adjacent to Zilker Park, providing amenities and events for millions of park visitors.

"The advisory board has been giving input at the boards and commission meetings, so there are several of those still coming up through May. And that is kind of our focus right now is to continue to share information about what we think will help Zilker areas, where we think the plan might still need tweaking or improving or further discussion," said Blizzard. 

Zilker 351 will focus on supporting current park operations through advocacy, fundraising, streamlining communications among the Zilker groups and volunteer coordination, according to the organization. If and when any changes or improvements to Zilker Park are approved by the Austin City Council, Zilker 351 said it will stand ready to assist the City of Austin with implementation.

"I think each of us wants to make sure that kids now, kids in the future, families, adults can have the same amazing experiences that so many of us have had in Zilker Park. That's our goal and that's our intent. And we're just honored to be in this position to be able to help steward our amazing park," stated Blizzard. 

To learn more about Zilker 351, visit zilker351.org and follow on social media @zilker351.

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