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VERIFY: Will Zilker Park be handed over to private management?

City leaders say that's not happening.

AUSTIN, Texas — Online, all kinds of posts are circulating saying Zilker Park will be led "under the guise of a nonprofit." Social media users are calling on Austinites to "Save Zilker Park." 

We wanted to know: Is the City of Austin considering handing over "Austin's most loved park" to private ownership?" 

Our sources for this story are the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, The Zilker Park Vision Plan and the group "Save Zilker Park." 

"We are not ceding over any type of management or ownership of the park to anybody else. We cannot do that. We do not have the authority to do that," said Gregory Montes, program manager for the Austin Parks and Recreation Department.

Instead, the City is working on a "Vision Plan" for Zilker Park to enhance and restore it. The plan includes several proposals like adding parking garages and restoring the old Zilker Hillside Theater area, which would be designed to seat 5,000 people in lawn seating if approved. 

"This plan is laying down the foundation for future generations," Montes said. 

The website savezilker.org is run by a "group of concerned citizens." They are concerned the proposal would "give management of operations within the park to an umbrella nonprofit and away from public input and accountability." 

In a statement to KVUE, "Save Zilker Park" said: "Our goal is to help raise awareness around the entire Zilker Vision Plan and give constituents a voice to their City Council representatives. From parking garages and amphitheaters in the Great Lawn to stakeholder interest, there is a lot to talk about. We hope the City will embrace the public's voice and work to find a plan everyone loves."

The Vision Plan does say it "recommends a unified Zilker Park nonprofit that can serve as a main point of contact for the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, acting as liaison and coordinating body between the many active organizations and interested parties." 

"This is about an organization that would work with the nonprofits already, but they could actually help the department by advocating for additional park funds during the budget process and so forth. So, that's what we are putting into the vision plan as a recommendation," Montes said. 

Montes wants to make it clear that the management stays the same. 

"We're basically stating that those nonprofits that help us in the park are going to maintain that relationship with us because they have agreements with us," Montes said. "But the park itself, Zilker Park, is for the citizens of Austin and will continue to be."

So no, the City of Austin will not hand over management of Zilker Park to private management. The recommendations made in the Zilker Park Vision Plan won't move forward without city council approval. Discussions begin this month. 

Learn more about the Vision Plan.

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