Shipe Park — Austin’s Most Beloved Neighborhood Park is Small but Mighty

Shipe Park is a small two-acre city park located on the northern edge of Austin’s oldest suburb, Hyde Park. The Hyde Park subdivision was planned in 1891 by the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Land and Town Company under the marketing direction of Monroe Martin Shipe, the park’s namesake.

Mr. Shipe had a vision for Hyde Park’s development. He planned it to be a self-sufficient community including park, with general stores, churches, modern infrastructure, and stylistic, large residences to serve Austin’s affluent community in the burgeoning early 20th Century. The original vision was revised eight years later to concentrate on middle class residents by constructing homes in the popular Bungalow Style that dominates the area today.

Good parks, like the neighborhoods they serve, are nurtured and improved according to local residents’ needs and their sense of community. Shipe Park is a fine example of a community park, improved by its local user’s affection, connection, and dedication. The strong bond between local residents and their park has thrived to this day, with no sign of waning.

Shipe Park’s Two Significant Acres

Shipe Park only covers two acres of land in this charming neighborhood, yet its significance to the community cannot be overrated. Huge, ancient oaks provide lush shade making its picnic area, playscape and swimming pools comfortable places to play even during the hottest Austin summers. Well-lit to extend its hours of use for area residents, a lovely creek runs through the park and it is also pet-friendly.

The park features two popular tennis courts, a basketball court, neighborhood-focused swimming and wading pools, a children’s playscape, and open green space, as well as a covered picnic area in a log cabin structure that has stood since the park was established. Its pool is spring-fed and usually stays cool even through late summer. The pool is open June through August every year, is always free to all, and is consistently staffed with lifeguards.

Friends of Shipe Park — Big Love from Volunteers and Patrons

Every successful park has to experience several conditions to be viable and remain in existence. Many early parks are eventually converted to other uses if the community becomes disengaged. But at Shipe, led by a local organization known as The Friends of Shipe Park, the Hyde Park community cares for and uses Shipe’s diminutive space in big ways.

Friends of Shipe Park is a group of neighborhood volunteers who were moved by their love of the park to come together in 2008 and promote volunteer efforts to enhance and maintain the park. They coordinate opportunities for neighbors to work side-by-side for the benefit of the park, so that the trees, the field, the pools, and the playground will continue to be places where people can play together, find moments of solitude and peace, or visit with their neighbors.

Shipe is a fine example of a park enjoying positive participation and has events held throughout the year. The Friends of Shipe Park helps coordinate events like the annual Shipe Pool Party held to celebrate the pool’s opening each June with live music, great food, lively citizen fellowship and a movie screening that takes place among its mature oak trees.

A recent accomplishment of the Friends of Shipe Park is completion of a beautiful, brightly colored mural along a wall beside the main pool. The formerly utilitarian façade has been transformed into a beautiful glass mosaic, appropriately dubbed, “Day at the Park,” emphasizing all the activities they enjoy in their park.

There are also cleanup and repair weekends performed semi-annually by local volunteers and the Friends of Shipe Park to keep the park well maintained.

The success of any public space is indeed buoyed by its care, and the concern and participation of its community. In turn, Shipe Park will flourish for many years to come as the primary recreational space where the neighborhood interacts, grows and plays together.