DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR
LLANO — Though she lived in Llano, Julie Leverett would often leave town just to take her kids to the park a few years ago. The Llano parks, she felt, just didn’t have the facilities her kids wanted or the parks’ playscapes weren’t quite up to date.
“So I’d end up spending my time going out of town,” she said.
But about two years ago, Leverett and a handful of other residents decided that instead of leaving Llano to go to the park, they needed to fix the ones at home.
That’s when the Llano Parks Project was born. And now, two years later, by working with the city of Llano, the group has seen a good deal of park improvements.
“But we still have several other things we want to accomplish,” said Leverett, who is a member of the organization’s board.
To help finance an upcoming project, the Llano Parks Project is hosting the Antler Drop Ball, its first major fundraiser, Dec. 31 at the Horseshoe Bay Resort. The event includes dinner, dancing, casino tables and silent and live auctions as well as a champagne toast. Tickets and sponsorship information are available at llanoparksproject.org.
Leverett said the fundraiser will help the organization build on their recent success and go forward with their goals.
One of the first projects the group tackled was helping get two new playscapes in the park adjacent to the Llano Volunteer Fire Department.
“The old playscape was splintering, and there was a merry-go-round and a teeter-totter,” Leverett said.
So Llano Parks Project volunteers went to the city of Llano with the idea of improving the park. Leverett said the city agreed with the idea and put in two new playscapes and added fencing around the park.
Leverett added that the city staff and city council have gotten behind the idea of improving the parks as well.
“We started going to the city council meetings to share our ideas,” she said. “And they’ve started an advisory board for parks and recreation. I think one of the things that’s been so important is building that relationship with the city. They’ve been incredible, willing to listen and work with us.”
One idea the parks project and city brought to fruition this past summer was a beach area at Badu Park on the Llano River.
“If you went out there this summer, it was almost always busy,” Leverett said.
The project also included bringing together the two playscapes, which had been located in different areas of Badu Park. Leverett pointed out that before the consolidation, parents with different-aged children struggled to monitor them because one playscape was for younger children while the other was for older kids.
The Llano Parks Project wants to continue with improvements to Badu Park. One thing members learned while talking with businesses and individuals regarding the city’s parks was how little they take advantage of the Llano River, which runs right through town.
One owner of a local bed-and-breakfast told the group and the city’s advisory committee members that his customers appreciate the places to eat and shop in Llano, but beyond that, there are no recreational activities, especially on the river.
“One thing we’re looking for is a third party to maybe come in and rent kayaks, canoes and paddle boards in Badu Park,” Leverett said.
So the Llano Parks Project added developing a dock in Badu park and activities such as kayaking and canoeing to its projects list. Leverett said they would also like to build a splash pad at the park.
But probably the biggest benefit to come from the Llano Parks Project and the city working side by side is the development of a vision for the city’s parks.
During one advisory committee meeting, city staff and residents were encouraged to put on the table what they wanted to see at the Llano parks from Robinson to Grenwelge.
The idea, Leverett said, was to start the creation of a parks masterplan from which the city, the Llano Parks Project and other organizations can work.
“It also allows us to tackle the park improvements in phases,” she added.
And a good park system adds to the city in several ways, including attracting more residents and helping the local economy. Study after study has revealed a good park system remains one of the highest priorities for people when they’re considering moving to a city.
“We have some great parks here in Llano,” Leverett said. “And now, there’s really no reason to leave town to go to the park.”
Go to llanoparksproject.org or the organization’s Facebook page for more information on the Antler Drop Ball and other activities.