The Austin Parks and Recreation Department oversees more than 16,000 acres of land containing 251 parks, 15 preserves (sanctuaries for native plants, native animals and unique natural features), and 40 greenbelts (parkland on creeks and canyons). The year 1875 marked the first gift of land to the City of Austin with specific direction that it be used as a park. Governor E.M. Pease donated 23 acres of land around Shoal Creek known as Pease Park. A jewel of the park system, Barton Springs and 35 acres surrounding it was deeded to the City in 1918 by A.J. Zilker.
As Austin grew, so did its desire for parks and recreation facilities. In 1926, The City Council appropriated $14,395 for a parks division. The 1927 Southwest District Conference of the National Recreation Association was sponsored by the Austin Lions Club. This initiated a recreation survey for the City of Austin which proposed the creation of a City recreation agency. The City Council passed an ordinance in May 1928 creating the Austin Recreation Division, and W.T. Caswell chaired the advisory board appointed just six days later.
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