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Michael Barnes

Pease Park party on Niles Road

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It was a pretty party for a public park staged in a private park.

The Pease Park Conservancy gathered its backers from the Old Enfield and Pemberton districts for a supremely relaxed reception inside and outside the gracious home of Andrea and Dean McWilliams. Leaders shared a short update about the group’s work on Phase 1 of the park’s reincarnation while folks mingled on the patio of the McWilliams’ broad, parklike backyard.

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Michel & Melodee Issa at Pease Park Conservancy party on Niles Road.

The leaders acknowledged that what had been mostly a neighborhood park for decades is becoming a destination, especially since Zilker Park and the Butler Hike & Bike Trail are already so heavily employed. They also reminded us that West Campus on the other side of the park is the most densely populated residential area in the city.

So time for Pease Park, a gift of Gov. Elisha Pease, who lived next door to the McWilliams’ manse at the magnificently restored Woodlawn, to step up to the plate. A fantastic master plan is in place and a landscape design firm has been secured to partner with the city of Austin planners.

I’m beginning to think that virtually every park needs a conservancy, since the city’s parks budget, just for operations and maintenance — leave aside any wished-for land acquisition or improvements — is between $80 million and $100 million short annually. That, according to the Austin Parks Foundation.

And guess who was sitting alongside Andrea McWilliams as I departed? Timeless Jane Sibley, who lives right

around the corner. Recently saluted as a Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts, she was as regal and unedited as ever.