City of Austin / Cities Connecting Children to Nature
In March of 2016, after a national search among municipal leaders for the most innovative strategies for connecting kids to nature, Austin was one of seven cities awarded the Cities Connecting Children to Nature Strategic Planning Grant. The Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) was tasked with leading a strategic planning process to explore how city leadership could help more children connect to nature, with a specific focus on equity. Over the course of 6 months, PARD brought together 75 representatives from 10 city departments including City Council and the Mayor’s office, Austin Independent School District (AISD), and 40 nonprofit organizations to create a 3-year Implementation Plan. Short-term victories include the Austin Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights adopted in January by City Council; and the launch of a “Green School Parks” to green schoolyards and implement nature curriculum in areas of Austin with low nature equity and access. This project is the very definition of collaboration!
Lee Walker has established himself as the quintessential collaborator, some might say a collaborator magnet, and so our award for community collaboration is presented in his name. Lee served as the chair of the Westcave Board, and has been its primary benefactor, for more than 25 years. It was Lee’s skill at collaborative leadership that generated the funds to build our fabulous Warren Skaaren Environmental Learning Center and those same skills have guided Westcave in a new and expanded strategic direction.