AUSTIN (KXAN) — Of the findings in the 2023 “State Of Our Environment” report recently published by the City of Austin, staff say they’re getting closer to the 2009 city council-set goal of everyone in our city being able to walk to a park.

According to that report, 70% of people in city limits now live within walking distance of a park, nearly 20,000 more people than the year before.

It also said the City of Austin alone added nearly 130 acres of parkland last year.

“That included Jamestown Neighborhood Park, Little Walnut Creek Greenbelt, Country Club Neighborhood Park…the list goes on,” said Scott Grantham, a principal planner with Austin’s Park Planning Division.

Much of the 130 additional acres came from parkland dedication — the process in which the City of Austin gets outdoor space from some developers — and 2018 Parkland Acquisition Bond funding.

“The Parks and Recreation Department appropriated $17.4 million in Parkland Dedication fees in Fiscal Year 2023,” the report said.

A state law could change that

But staff also pointed to a new state law, HB 1526, as a challenge moving forward. Passed in 2023, the new law caps how much parkland can be taken from certain types of development in the five largest cities in the state, according to the report.

“There’s another cap that exists which is that if the value of the land is greater than the fee that would be a parkland dedication fee, then PARD would need to pay the developer for that land,” Grantham said.

The City of Austin passed an ordinance last year that brought the city into compliance with that law. You can read more about that state law here.