Citizens Raise the Bar for Parks

City parks are the legacy of the work of many. Design equity means equitable access to the decision-making process.

Successful parks in San Antonio all have one thing in common: a group of private citizens actively advocating for improvements. These groups may take the form of a “friends of the park” style conservancy or something far more informal, but their existence is essential. About two years ago, we got involved in a volunteer effort that resulted in one such group coalescing around the Dignowity Park Project. Over 18 months, we stewarded a community revisioning of Lockwood and Dignowity Parks, producing a plan that received $3.1M in San Antonio’s 2017 municipal bond to fund phase 1.

Seeing the success of an inclusive design process, the city councilman asked us to replicate that approach for 3 additional parks on the Eastside. Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Pittman-Sullivan Parks each received their own allocations in the 2017 bond, and we have worked over the past six months to mount a public design campaign around each one. Concept plans for future improvements are one important result of this project, but more importantly, the process was an opportunity to build foundations for future park conservancies. A thinktank of committed stakeholders per park was formed to lead the design team throughout the process, proving an effective first step toward a long term group. Later, we armed the thinktanks with next steps for creating actual conservancy, and now they are organizing independently and on their way to more successful parks.

The design team for this project included Overland Partners and Bender Wells Clark Design.

MLK Park Thinktank meets to review the concept plan

Eastside kids design park flags in the Dreammobile, a mobile park design lab

Park histories are collected and retold on-site by community members