Taking Ownership of Parks
After Amarillo voters rejected a 2021 proposition for tax-related improvements to city parks, residents of one local neighborhood wondered whether another funding mechanism would help. “It was a group of friends, really—neighbors and Olsen Park people—who saw, after the failed bonds, that there was a huge gap between passion for the parks and money to fund the parks,” says Matt Morgan.
Outdoor Amarillo was born from those discussions, and Morgan serves as the nonprofit’s interim executive director. The organization works as a philanthropic fundraising arm of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, similar to how Friends of the Public Library supports the public library system—but without any official connection to city employees.
The organization wants private citizens to see their local parks as extensions of their backyards, taking ownership of these spaces, which are used daily but dramatically underfunded. Morgan points to parks’ economic impact in a community. “Very broadly speaking, beautiful, welcoming and safe parks stimulate a city’s economy. There’s really no arguing that,” he says. “We view parks not only as a place for fun and family and all that goes with that, but also as a key economic factor for the City of Amarillo.”
Right now, Memorial Park is a top priority for the organization, which is working to raise funds to remodel the gazebo and event space in the center of the park. They are also working with Blank Spaces to design and fund a bathroom facility mural at Bones Hooks Park, similar to the one at Sam Houston Park. Outdoor Amarillo is also helping sponsor the upcoming Bad Magik Musik Fest at Sam Houston Park and hosting a citywide party at Memorial Park on June 24.
“A big dream of ours is to lessen the burden on the city to use taxpayer dollars for [certain] projects,” says Morgan. Some, like the mural, are cosmetic in nature. Others, like improving the drainage infrastructure around the Memorial Park gazebo, are decidedly unsexy. By funding these improvements privately, Outdoor Amarillo can get results without tapping into the city’s budget.
Morgan says the group is taking their work one park at a time. “We can focus on what neighborhoods want and are not reliant on the city to tell us what to prioritize,” he says. Through its website, Outdoor Amarillo hopes to hear from citizens about their neighborhood park, how they use it, and what they’d like to see in it. “The one thing we’re lacking is input from neighborhoods all over town,” says Morgan.
In addition to donations, the nonprofit is seeking volunteers for the June 24 party. To give or learn more, visit outdooramarillo.org.