Wooldridge Square park re-opens - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Wooldridge Square park re-opens

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Austin's oldest park is back open after being closed to the public for more than a year. Drought and overall neglect left Wooldridge Square looking more like a dirt field.

The fence is gone at Wooldridge Square in Downtown Austin. The city's first park officially re-opened on Friday after the city closed it in July of last year for much needed renovation.

For Claudette Walker it was like going back in time. She used to spend her lunch breaks here in the 70s.

"It was always a nice place so we're happy the city has opened it back up," Walker said.

Wooldridge Square dates back to 1839. The park was known for political activities and debate. Famous Texans like Lyndon Johnson announced their runs for office on the bandstand which was constructed in 1910.

In recent years, the popular gathering spot was more of a homeless camp.

"The irrigation system in the park didn't work, trees were dying, we're in the middle of a drought, lighting was poor. Security and perception of security was poor," said Marty Stump, Austin Parks and Recreation.

"There was not a strong advocacy for the park. The public in their minds didn't have a reason to be here and to have lunch here."

Marty Stump with Austin Parks and Recreation helped secure funding for new drought-resistant grass, more trees, a new irrigation system and more lighting. Parks officials also installed signs with park rules.

Austin police and park officers will work together to enforce a zero tolerance of those rules to make sure the park doesn't give the public a reason not to visit.

"So now the park is to the level of standard that can be maintained, stay clean and healthy for park users so hopefully the ick factor is gone," said Stump.

"I was skeptical and didn't know how it was going to look, but I think they did a nice job with the grass. Hopefully they will have more events like this and bring awareness to the fact that this park's here," said Esther Chung.

The grand re-opening celebration continues on Saturday. For a full list of events click here.

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