We always knew Pease Park was special. Now it is official! The Texas Recreation and Parks Society (TRAPS), a group of park administrators from all over the state, named Pease a “Lone Star Legacy Park” along with four other parks at their annual convention in Abilene on March 4th. To qualify for this designation a park must be associated with historic events or sites, be connected to events unique to the community and be home to special natural features.
Pease “knocks it out of the park,” so to speak, on all three points. History? Former Texas Governor & Mrs. E.M. Pease generously gave the land to the City of Austin for use as a park in 1875. Mrs. Pease had always sagely regarded it as the prettiest part of the their plantation, Woodlawn. The park was also the site of the post-Civil War encampment of Union General George Armstrong Custer’s cavalry troops in the winter of 1865-1866. The northern section of the park is still called “Custer’s Meadow” in memory of his troops short-lived bivouac on the banks of Shoal Creek.
As for events “unique to the community,” what could be more Austin than “Eeyore’s Birthday” celebrated at Pease on the last Saturday of each April since the 1974? It is always the “Age of Aquarius” at Eeyore’s and tie-dye is always in fashion. Thousands of residents, students and fun seekers crowd the park to beat drums, engage in sack races and costume contests, listen to music and generally celebrate Spring and the human condition. Hosted by the appropriately named “Friends of the Forest,” Eeyore’s certainly helps keep Austin Austin!
Special natural features? Pease has them in abundance. Its mixed woodlands, steep cliffs and the limestone banks of Shoal Creek are a little bit of “country in the city.” The park showcases the overlapping vegetation zones of east and west Texas with Spanish moss draped Live Oaks reminiscent of the Deep South juxtaposed next to prickly pear and Ashe Juniper of the Hill Country. Numerous natural springs and seeps on the hillsides keep the creek flowing even in the most severe drought. Shoal Creek’s limestone shelf attracts fossil hunters and the steep bluffs invite exploration. An amazingly diverse array of 121 bird, 16 mammal, 35 reptile and 17 fish species call the park home just blocks from Austin’s booming urban core.
Add all this up and the case for Pease as a “Lone Star Legacy” park was a slam-dunk. The TRAPS judges in Abilene would seem to have had an easy decision to make. Still, Pease Park Conservancy Executive Director Andy Gill feels the fact that these park professionals hold this green oasis in our own backyard in such high regard should cause all of us living next to it to sit up and take notice. Gill said “Austin residents too often take this familiar forest for granted as if it will always be there. We shouldn’t. We need to treat Pease Park as the true legacy that it is and invest in it to make sure that future generations can enjoy this special place.” Who could disagree? Pease is pretty special.