Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Explaining the Parks Board Coup of May 2023

The Parks Board experienced an unprecedented coup in May 2023, the month when they approved the Zilker Park Vision Plan. 

We ask: 

    • Who on the current Parks Board has shown favoritism to Park Nonprofits.

    • Who are the elected officials who appointed them.

We explain why our public resistance to commercialization of parks by Park Nonprofits matters.

A presentation to the Parks Board and the public.

Diana Prechter

April 2024

A PARB in transition: The 2022 Board welcomes a new member in Feb. 2023, Mr. Villalobos. This PARB voted against the Park Nonprofits in the Zilker Park Vision Plan -- but two members heeded Cannatti and did not support this action against the ZPVP.

A PARB in transition: Of 11 PARB members, 10 are newcomers by May of 2023.

A PARB incident: A phone call with Karen Blizzard of Zilker 351 drastically alters one PARB member’s vote.

PARB discussion about women swimmers’ change order request. The “expert witness” selected by the Board was Mike Cannatti of the nonprofit Barton Springs Conservancy.

PARD’s voting trends since Feb. 2023 which have advanced Park Nonprofits and obstructed the voiced concerns of other PARB members and the general public:

How did the PARB suddenly become strongly aligned with Park Nonprofits?

By May of 2023, the Mayor and several Council Members replaced experienced park volunteer board members with "no-experience-novices". 

It has created the most severe loss of institutional memory in the modern history of the Parks Board. 

It was a “coup” of the Parks Board.

The facts:

• A 2022 Parks Board with a collective 25 years of service to the Parks Department was replaced by a cohort of novices totaling 1 year of Parks Board experience. 

• A 2022 Parks Board that expressed serious concerns against approving the Zilker Park Vision Plan in Feb. 2023 -- specifically because of the potential expansion of Zilker351 and all Zilker Park Nonprofits -- was replaced by novices who would vote in favor of the Zilker Park Vision Plan's commercial expansion of Zilker351's Park Nonprofits no-matter-what.

Which elected officials are responsible for the 2023 “coup” of the Parks Board?

Why does this matter?

The voting pattern of the current Parks Board suggests that some of the Parks Board members and the following elected officials are likely being heavily influenced by monied interests.

Park Nonprofits might have begun as organizations with the best of intentions. But by being granted park concession contracts providing steady revenue streams (like ACL, the Zilker Train, food trucks, and rentable event venues), they have become money-making opportunists.  They have learned an easy way to get more revenue: 

• Get another concession contract! 

• Control another public building and rent it out for weddings and corporate events!

Even more: They have learned an easy way to pay-to-play with politics: 

Nonprofits have learned that if they collaboratively pay for a PARD study/report/ or master plan, they can influence the message in the plan. 

They are using our tax payer dollars to write CoA PARD plans that benefit themselves!

Now, as co-authors of the master plans, and as managers of park concessions and park properties (like the Seaholm Power Plant, the Old Bakery Emporium, and more), the Nonprofits can behave like Profits: They seek the steady stream of revenue resulting from ever greater commercialization of our park land and public assets.

If the commercialization of our parks and public assets 

actually benefitted the public coffers (the General Fund), 

that might be acceptable. 

But the profits go straight to the Nonprofits.

Commercialization of our parks and public assets does not benefit the public. Other parks funding mechanisms must be studied. The current Parks Board members and their city council “appointers” are unlikely to veer away from their positions without extraordinary public pressure. Elections have consequences.

If you would like PARKS to be GREEN, WELL MAINTAINED, and NOT COMMERCIALIZED, then you need to ask these elected officials to replace the Pro-Nonprofit Parks Board members with park people who are devoted to the real issues: Trees, grass, biodiversity, water and people. 

Tell these elected officials in your own words: 

Parks are for people. Not profit. 

Replace your appointee to the Parks Board now.

The elected officials to contact are:

Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, District 2

Council Member José ''Chito'' Vela, District 4

Council Member José Velásquez, District 3

Council Member Ryan Alter, District 5

Council Member Zohaib ''Zo'' Qadri, District 9

Mayor Kirk Watson

Send your email to:,,,,,, 

Explaining the Parks Board Coup of May 2023

The Parks Board experienced an unprecedented coup in May 2023, the month when they approved the Zilker Park Vision Plan.  We ask:   Who on t...