AUSTIN (KXAN) — The need for more lighting in some Austin neighborhoods has been top of mind recently, especially in areas where people have gone missing.
It’s raised safety concerns city-wide. In Northeast Austin, The African American Wellness Alliance of Central Texas got wind of neighbors feeling unsafe in one of its community parks and decided to do something about it.
The process started back in 2020. Marva Overton, Executive Director of the alliance said they contacted the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department for help since it owns and maintains the park.
From there, Overton said they were connected to the Public Works Department. They went through a community partnering program, which funded the installation of five new solar lights in the park.
Crime hasn’t been an issue in the area, according to neighbors. However, they said there’s an issue with homeless people.
There are a lot of families who enjoy the park with their kids, so they’re happy to now have a little more peace of mind.
“A long time coming,” Jasmine Gardner said, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years. “You [couldn’t see] probably about five feet in front of you once the sun went down, [before the new lights were installed]…I hold free evening yoga classes at the park and had to end just a little bit early so people have enough time to make it to their cars in a safe manner.”
The public works department says they had to make sure all neighbors were on board with the project, so staff went out and surveyed residents in the area.
“Our goal is to just make the park more neighborhood friendly, more usable, and to make sure that the neighborhood is connecting, and we’re going to be supporting the park long term in that partnership,” Overton said.
The Public Works Department said they’ve been doing these community partnerships and projects since 2012. It works to partner with communities across Austin but admitted they were lacking in providing assistance for some neighborhoods.
The light installations at Northeast District Park are its 70th project. Applications are only open twice a year.
Public Works said it selects a neighborhood based on how much the community is willing to invest in seeing it through—whether that be contributing something financially, or volunteering time.