Moody Foundation gives $9.7 million gift to enhance Pease Park

9:00 p.m Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 Local
As seen in this rendering, the Kingsbury Commons plan will overhaul the southern end of Pease Park. (Contributed by Clayton & Little Architects)

The Moody Foundation is donating $9.7 million to the Pease Park Conservancy to overhaul the Kingsbury Commons area alongside Shoal Creek at the southern end of Pease Park.

“The gift is absolutely the most transformative thing that’s happened at Pease Park since 1875 when Gov. and Mrs. E.M. Pease donated 23 acres of their land to the city of Austin for use as a public park,” said Andy Gill, outgoing executive director of the conservancy, a nonprofit that pushes enhancements to one of the city’s oldest parks. “Since that time, others like (civic leader) Janet Fish have shown great commitment to improving the space. The generosity of the Moody Foundation pays tribute to their legacy and allows Pease to live up to its amazing potential.”

Kingsbury Commons is a popular gathering spot near Kingsbury Street and Parkway within an interconnected network of green spaces that includes Pease Park and the Shoal Creek Greenbelt network. The network fills 84 acres along the western edge of North Lamar Boulevard.

While commuters stuck on Lamar from West 15th Street to West 34th Street might be most familiar with the volleyball sand courts or the dog park, the extended green space includes all sorts of trails, springs, cliffs, wooded areas, historical sites and a recreational lawn best known for Eeyore’s Birthday Party, an almost sacred Austin rite of spring.

A Pease Park Master Plan, put together with the help of Clayton & Little Architects at the behest of the conservancy, formed in 2008 and was adopted by the Austin City Council in 2014. That plan includes new trails, more trees and picnic shelters.

A restoration project along the creek’s banks was also started in 2014. The conservancy will select a design firm to execute the master plan in the next months.

The gift from the Moody Foundation, which recently gave $15 million to help the Waller Creek Conservancy’s plans to transform Waterloo Park and add an amphitheater, will help launch a capital campaign for additional funds.

Projects within Kingsbury Commons, to be executed in partnership with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, will include increased accessibility and an improved experience at the entrance of the park. More children’s play features — including nature-based playscapes, a new water feature and a treehouse — will be added.

Also high on the agenda is an enhanced role for the whimsical 1920s Tudor Cottage as a space to accommodate birthday parties, family reunions and other activities, as well as the addition of a stone terrace to the north of the cottage. Perhaps the biggest departure will be a new multiuse facility, the Kingsbury Pavilion, to be built immediately north of the Tudor Cottage and to serve as an additional area for community activities, with modern bathrooms and new picnic facilities.

“Pease Park is a beautiful and very treasured asset for the city of Austin,” said Ross Moody, trustee of the Moody Foundation and president and CEO of National Western Life Insurance Company. “It is truly is the ‘people’s park,’ a place for day-to-day enjoyment and respite, and this gift complements the Moody Foundation’s efforts to enhance parks and green spaces across Austin.”

According to its website, the Moody Foundation was established in 1942 by William L. Moody and his wife, Libbie Rice Shearn Moody. It has donated more than $1.4 billion in grants across the state “to build a bigger, better Texas.”

Conservancy director Gill said, “I think the Pease family — all who have cared for Pease Park over the past 142 years — and everyone who will use it in the future will enjoy the park’s new life thanks to the opportunity the Moody Foundation has provided.”

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