Pitch in at It’s My Park Day on Saturday

It's My Park Day is set for Saturday, March 4. CONTRIBUTED/Austin Parks Foundation
It’s My Park Day is set for Saturday, March 4. CONTRIBUTED/Austin Parks Foundation

 

We’re lucky in Austin. We don’t have to travel far to find a park – more than 300 in all, with greenbelts, hiking trails and swimming pools to explore.

But all that terrain means a lot of maintenance, and the city budget doesn’t provide enough money to tackle all the work.

That’s why the Austin Parks Foundation, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, wants you to lend some muscle power at It’s My Park Day this Saturday. (A second It’s My Park Day will take place this fall.)

Thousands of Austin residents will pitch in, spreading mulch, pulling weeds, restoring habitat, cleaning creeks, improving trails and more at area parks and greenbelts throughout the city.

Projects will take place at parks all over the city. CONTRIBUTED/Austin Parks Foundation
Projects will take place at parks all over the city. CONTRIBUTED/Austin Parks Foundation

Want to join in? I’ve done it. (That landscaping near the entrance of Deep Eddy Pool? I helped plant it!)

You can help paint, pick up litter, remove grafitti at Dick Nichols Park, mulch trees, clean the pool, paint or remove invasive plants at Shipe Park, spread Dillo Dirt or tidy flowerbeds at Pease Park or spread mulch or install an automated drip irrigation system at the Festival Beach Food Forest, an edible landscape in a public park.

Hours depend on which project you join.

Past volunteer days have generated close to 10,000 hours of volunteer labor, according to foundation officials. That’s the equivalent of five park maintenance employees working full time for a year.

For a full list of options, which include work along the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Shoal Creek, Waller Creek, Bouldin Creek and Mount Bonnell, go here. To register, go here.

Stop trashing our parks – learn Leave No Trace ethics

Paul Garza, left, takes a break during an REI Intro to Outdoor Rock Climbing class at Middle Earth Wall inside North Shore Climbing Area at Reimers Ranch Saturday, July 25, 2015. The class brings together beginner and and novice climbers to teach basics such as knots and proper use of gear. (Stephen Spillman / for American Statesman)
Paul Garza, left, takes a break while climbing at  Reimers Ranch in July 2015.  (Stephen Spillman / for American Statesman)

 

Central Texas parks draw big crowds, and all those people make an impact on trails and vegetation.

To help educate the public about how to minimize their footprint, Travis County Parks Department is partnering with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to host a series of educational programs and community events March 1-3. Trainers will focus their efforts on Milton Reimers Ranch County Park, which is popular among rock climbers and mountain bikers.

“In most cases, the land impact isn’t due to a malicious intent to harm nature and wildlife,” says Amanda Neiman, Leave No Trace traveling trainer. “Instead, it’s simply lack of Leave No Trace education and practices.”

Here’s the lineup:

  • March 1: Leave No Trace for Mountain Biking, 6:30-8 p.m. REI Austin Downtown, 601 N. Lamar Boulevard. (Register at http://www.rei.com/events). This mountain biking specific, interactive workshop, includes Leave No Trace minimum-impact skills and techniques developed in conjunction with the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Travis County Park staff will be onsite to talk about the different outdoor recreation opportunities at our local parks.
  • March 2: Leave No Trace Bouldering Awareness Workshop, 7-7:45 p.m. Austin Bouldering Project, 979 Springdale Road. The workshop will include skills to minimize impact while climbing. It will also cover the best methods to protect crags and boulders, interact with other visitors, respect wildlife, and take care of the places you like to climb. Free.
  • March 3: Climbing Authority of Resource Workshop, 7-9 p.m. Austin Bouldering Project, 979 Springdale Road. The workshop will include skills to minimize impact while climbing. It will also cover the best methods to protect crags and boulders, interact with other visitors, respect wildlife, and take care of the places you like to climb. All attendees will receive a certificate for the workshop. Register at Eventbrite.

The Travis County park system was established in 1939. It now comprises of over 33 parks and numerous preserve tracts.  For more information, go here.

Endurance athletes needed for research

CONTRIBUTED
CONTRIBUTED

 

Highly trained endurance athletes are needed for research about a certain protein, and how it affects cognition in trained and untrained individuals.

Rexi Parcells, a graduate student at the University of Texas, is looking for athletes between the ages of 20 and 29 for her studies about a protein called Cathepsin B.

During a two-hour visit, participants will undergo cognitive testing, a treadmill VO2 max test to examine their cardiorespiratory fitness level, body composition testing and blood testing. Each will be entered into a drawing for a $100 gift card.

For more information, call 214-986-0118 or email rexi.parcells@utexas.edu.

Eight cool things I saw on my bike commute this week

This VW bus lives in front of a house on Shoal Creek Boulevard. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
This VW bus lives in front of a house on Shoal Creek Boulevard. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

Vintage cars, giant cactus, public art, friendly folks – I saw all those things this week on my daily commute to work.

img_0014What do you see on your way to the office? Send me pictures, and I’ll share some of them here each week.

1. I’ve ogled a VW bus parked in front of a house along Shoal Creek Boulevard for years. I finally stopped, knocked on the door of the house where it lives, and asked if I could snap a few pictures. That bus reminds me of one we had when I was growing up. We had two, actually – a green one, then a marigold yellow one. When the green one got rusty, my dad bought plate-sized flower-shaped stickers to cover up the bad spots. When the yellow one broke down, he and his buddy rebuilt it. At one point, they towed it around the neighborhood, trying to jump start it while it shot flames out the tailpipe. I posted a picture of the one on Shoal Creek and received a flood of notes from folks who also loved VW buses. And I discovered that this one belongs to a local triathlete.

I found John Conley on the trail this morning. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

2. Every time I ride my bike to work, I bump into a few people I know. This morning I found

former Austin Marathon & Half Marathon director John Conley at the trailhead to the Butler Hike and Bike Trail. He calls the back of his car his locker room, and it’s full of water and sunscreen and bags and physical therapy equipment. Conley spent weeks in the hospital and underwent several surgeries last year after contracting flesh-eating bacteria, but he’s back!

This sign stands in front of a swing on Shoal Creek Boulevard. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

3. Need a free ride? This side stands next to a swing in front of a house on Shoal Creek Boulevard.

Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

4. We grow big cactus here in Austin, including this prickly pear next to the sidewalk on Shoal Creek Boulevard.

Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

5. If you don’t have a bike of your own, rent one from Austin B-cycle, Austin’s bike share system. This station is located at Zilker Park, right along Barton Springs Road.

Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

6. The lines of the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge always draw my eye. It’s as pretty from below as it is from the top.

Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

7. This stretch picnic table ranks as my favorite place to celebrate birthdays – or anything. The table cloth is already set, just bring your own friends (and maybe a cake.) It’s located on the south side of the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge.

Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman
Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

8. The Long Center kind of reminds me of a convertible spaceship that plopped down in downtown Austin. I’ve perfected the art of propping up my bike using my helmet, so I parked it in front of the landing zone.

———

Too hot to swim? Swimmers raise money to cool Northwest Pool

Ramsey Pool installed aerators to keep the water cool. Swimmers at Northwest Pool want to install aerators there, too. CONTRIBUTED
Ramsey Pool installed aerators to keep the water cool. Swimmers at Northwest Pool want to install aerators there, too. CONTRIBUTED

 

A flying leap into cold water can make a hot summer day bearable, but sometimes the neighborhood pool feels more like a hot tub than an oasis.

Two Austin lap swimmers are trying to keep one city pool a little chillier by raising money to purchase aerators for it. The aerators – pumps that suck up pool water and spray it into the air – can lower pool temperature by as much as 10 degrees.

That’s significant, when you consider that the temperature of most Austin pools will reach 90 degrees by June. Warmer water breeds bacteria, and means more chemicals are needed to keep the pool sanitized. Plus, a plunge into hot water just doesn’t refresh like cool water.

A Go Fund Me campaign has raised about $2,200 of the $3,800 needed to buy two aerators for the Olympic-sized swimming pool at Beverly S. Sheffield Northwest District Park. Once purchased, the aerators will be donated to the City of Austin Aquatics Department to install, operate and maintain.

“Northwest Pool is such a great place, and you see an amazing variety of people,” said Steve Johnson, one of the swimmers spearheading the campaign. “The only thing that’s bad is how hot it gets. We really hope this will improve the enjoyment for everyone.”

The deadline to donate is April 10. To contribute, go here.

Northwest isn’t the first pool to get aerators. Ramsey Pool put in aerators last summer.

Want to get aerators for your neighborhood pool? Johnson said he’d help advise other groups interested in raising money for similar projects.

South Llano River State Park earns dark sky status

South Llano River State Park recently earned International Dark Sky-Park status. CONTRIBUTED/Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
South Llano River State Park recently earned International Dark Sky-Park status. CONTRIBUTED/Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

 

Looking for darkness, shooting stars and comets?

Head to South Llano River State Park, which just became the third state park in Texas – along with Copper Breaks State Park and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area – with International Dark-Sky Park status.

South Llano River State Park earns a “3” on the Bortle Scale, which ranks skies from 1 to 9, with one for the darkest skies and nine for the least dark, according to a press release from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The park hosts star watching parties. CONTRIBUTED/Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
The park hosts star watching parties. CONTRIBUTED/Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

The park is located off of Interstate 10, about 5 miles from Junction. Park officials there team with local astronomers, the Mason Star Gazers and Texas Tech University at Junction’s Outdoor School to offer star watching parties, where the public can view the night sky and learn about the importance of darkness to people and wildlife.

The park’s webpage includes information about its efforts to protect dark skies, plus a clear sky chart and real-time dark sky monitoring from the park’s Sky Quality Meter.

For more information about dark skies at Texas state parks, visit the dark skies program page on the TPWD website.

For more information about the International Dark Skies Association, go here.

Easy Street Recumbents to host bike rally this weekend

Easy Street Recumbents will hold a rally to celebrate the reclining bikes this weekend. CONTRIBUTED/Easy Street Recumbents
Easy Street Recumbents will hold a rally to celebrate the reclining bikes this weekend. CONTRIBUTED/Easy Street Recumbents

Rather sit back when you ride a bike?

An Austin bike shop that sells recumbent bicycles – two or three-wheeled bikes on which the rider leans back in a supportive seat with his or her legs extended in front to pedal – will host a celebration this weekend.

The Heart of Texas Recumbent Rally 2017 will include the Laid Back Social, Recumbent University sessions, a charity raffle drawing, a Texas-style Rodeo and recreational rides for every fitness level.

Recumbents are used for casual riding around the neighborhood, on paved trails, for racing, touring or off-road exploration.

The event is scheduled for Feb. 24-26 at Easy Street Recumbents, 5555 North Lamar Boulevard. Cost is $65/person and includes all events, including lunch Friday and Saturday

For more information about Easy Street, go here.

To register go here.

For updates, go here.

Best conditions for a marathon? Cold and dry – not our warm and muggy forecast

Kirsten McDougal, of Round Rock, and Josh Paker, of Austin, show their patriotic colors before last year's Austin Marathon & Half Marathon. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Kirsten McDougal, of Round Rock, and Josh Paker, of Austin, show their patriotic colors before last year’s Austin Marathon & Half Marathon. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Consider packing a squeegee if you’re running this weekend’s Austin Marathon and Half Marathon.

Weather forecasters are calling for lows around 60 and highs around 80 on Sunday, with a chance of light showers in the morning and heavy storms in the evening. It’ll be muggy, too, with humidity of 80 to 90 percent as moisture moves in from the Gulf.

That’s not exactly ideal if you plan to run 26.2 miles.

Tyler Olson and Wende Parks finish the Austin Half Marathon together in downtown Austin on February 14, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Tyler Olson and Wende Parks finish the Austin Half Marathon together in downtown Austin on February 14, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Perfect marathon conditions are generally considered colder and crisper, although they vary depending on the runner’s weight and fitness level, course difficulty and other factors.

Most studies indicate that elite runners perform best when temperatures are in the mid 30s. Mere mortals prefer warmer temperatures – somewhere are 47 or 48 degrees – but not as warm as we’ll see Sunday.

Runners World explains the science of it in this article. Shape Magazine chimes in on the issue too, suggesting that ideal conditions for women are 45 degrees and overcast.

Here’s the deal: The faster you run, the more body your heat generates. Cold air helps dissipate heat, but if it’s too cold your muscles will have to work harder to produce energy. Fitter folks can adapt more easily to a wider range of temperatures.

Experts say temperatures that are 9 degrees hotter or colder than ideal slow runners by less than 1 percent; they also say a difference of 18 degrees can slog you down by almost 3 percent. Read more in this article by John Davis at Runners Connect.

Kevin Babb of Austin celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the 2016 Austin Marathon. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Kevin Babb of Austin celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the 2016 Austin Marathon. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Want specifics based on how fast you run? Check this calculator to help determine your ideal running temperature, based on distance and pace. 

In a nutshell, then, most folks run their best when it’s nippy but not bone-chilling cold. And if you’re watching from the sidelines and feel comfortable just standing or walking, the runners are probably suffering.

So, sorry about this weekend, runners. Just hold on to this one bit of good news – no hail or tornados are expected.

HEAT Bootcamp to offer donation-based workouts on Feb. 25

HEAT Bootcamp will offer donation-based community workouts on Feb. 25. CONTRIBUTED
HEAT Bootcamp will offer donation-based community workouts on Feb. 25. CONTRIBUTED

 

Want a little rhythm with your workout?

HEAT Bootcamp will offer donation-based community workouts on Feb. 25 to benefit Anthropos Arts, a non-profit organization that connects at-risk children with music mentors and education.

Proceeds will benefit Anthropos Arts, which connects at-risk kids with music mentors. CONTRIBUTED
Proceeds will benefit Anthropos Arts, which connects at-risk kids with music mentors. CONTRIBUTED
The Anthropos Arts Band will perform. CONTRIBUTED
The Anthropos Arts Band will perform. CONTRIBUTED

Snappy, 25-minute workouts will start every 30 minutes between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at HEAT Bootcamp headquarters, 2210 South First Street.

The Anthropos Arts Band will perform. Rhythm Superfoods, LIVE Beverages, Goodpop, HomePlate Peanut Butter, High Brew Coffee, Oatmega, Seaweed Bath Co., Beanitos and EPIC will provide healthy refreshments.

No minimum donation is required, and you can participate in as many workouts as you want.

Dylan Jones founded Anthropos Arts in 1998. Today it brings professional musicians from a variety of music genres to give free music lessons, workshops and performance opportunities to at-risk students in middle and high school.

For more information, go here.

“Bachelorette” stars to lead Saturday workout in Austin

Contributed/zachharrisonphotography
Join Citystrong for an outdoor workout on the terrace at the Long Center on Saturday. Zach Harrison Photography for American-Statesman

 

Shawn Booth and Erin Oprea will lead group workouts at the Long Center this weekend. Contributed
Shawn Booth and Erin Oprea will lead group workouts at the Long Center this weekend. CONTRIBUTED

You don’t have to head to an indoor gym to get a workout. And you don’t have to turn on the TV to get a dose of reality television.

Just head downtown Saturday and you’ll get a lesson in turning your city into a fitness center, compliments of celebrity trainer Erin Oprea, and stars of the 11th season of “The Bachelorette” Shawn Booth and Kaitlyn Bristowe.

The interactive Citystrong event begins at 11 a.m. on the terrace at The Long Center, 701 West Riverside Drive. Oprea and Booth will lead a workout while Bristowe provides commentary and spins the latest hits.

Booth is personal trainer, boot camp instructor and founder and owner of Healthy Meal Plans by Shawn Booth. Oprea is celebrity personal trainer whose clients include Carrie Underwood, and author of “4×4 Diet: 4 Key Foods, 4-Minute Workouts, Four Weeks to the Body You Want.”

Admission is $40. To register, go to citystrong.com. A portion of proceeds will benefit CreatiVets, which helps disabled veterans use art, music and creative writing to address service-related traumas. Bring your own exercise mat.