– Can you imagine that your home and garden
would someday become a beloved park? See how volunteers cultivated the dream at
Mayfield Park including help from the Austin Pond Society. – [Narrator] Can you imagine that one day
your house and garden would grow into a beloved park for generations of families and peacocks
to enjoy? Mayfield Park’s story begins with a cottage
built in the late 1800s on the grounds of the Edgemont plantation. – It was way out in the country, post office
box something or other, and they actually used buggies, horse and buggies. – [Narrator] These days paved roads run through
this Central Austin neighborhood just west of Mopac expressway, ending at The Contemporary
Austin at Laguna Gloria. In 1909, Lulu and Allison Mayfield bought
the house and 23 acres as a weekend retreat up the road from the Colorado River, now Lake
Austin. The Mayfield’s daughter, Mary Frances, married
University of Texas professor Milton R. Gutsch in 1918. When she inherited the property upon Allison’s
death in 1923, the young couple added on to the small house, including an enclosed sun
room that runs its length. To house fancy pigeons, they built a dovecote. – They had Moorhead pigeons. They had furry feet and furry necks. The dovecote has little roosts inside. When you get your birds and you train them,
you have to cover the sides so they’ll stay in. But after they’re used to that then you can
uncover them and they can go out and they’ll have their food and they wander around and
they go back in. It’s locked now because children would go
in and climb about, not a good idea. Outside was a wading pond that doves could
walk in and get their feet wet and drink. Somebody gave them a pair of peafowl in the
mid-30s and they are still here. Their descendants are here, we had a couple
babies last year. There are about 20 here now and they wander
the preserve, they also wander down the street. Just to see Westwood and what’s going on at
Laguna. – [Narrator] Working with Steve Arredondo,
Mary and Milton embellished the grounds with stone walls and ponds. Five lily ponds form a four-petaled flower
with a round center. A stone waterfall burbles into an hourglass
pond. – [Karen] When he would come home from work
he and his gardener would begin doing construction work. They did it all. – [Narrator] Mary planted the gardens, including
native plants collected from the wild. A founder of the Austin Junior League and
the Violet Crown Garden Club, Mary was always pleased to show off her rock-framed gardens,
too. – [Karen] This was in the 20s, she developed
35 small garden plots in the back. – [Narrator] Mary filled them with plants
to entice bees and butterflies. As one cycles out of bloom time, another takes
its place. She planted countless perennializing bulbs
and irises to dot the beds with daily openings. The Gutsch’s allee of stately Texas Sabal
Palms continues to line the driveway. – [Karen] They spent their life outside I
think, they did a lot of wandering. The whole purpose of the gardens is to stroll
through. – [Narrator] Milton died in 1967, and when
Mary died in 1971, she willed the property to the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation
Department. – To be used as a park and for no other reason. – [Narrator] But it took a helping hand from
the community. In 1986, Karen Cannatti, Mary C. Kaiser, and
Barbara Watt dug in as the Mayfield Park Community Project, a special project of Friends of the
Parks. – The city didn’t really know what to do with
it. They had this wonderful gift but no money
to maintain it. It started to deteriorate. – [Narrator] Encouraged by Charles Jordan,
then Director of Austin Parks and Recreation, they consulted historians as they raised money
to renovate the house and preserve its history. A popular outdoor wedding and event venue,
the restored house now charms indoor bridal parties and community gatherings in all weather. Over the years, they’ve financed renovations
through grants, fundraisers, community supporters, and the City of Austin. A recent project restored a section of the
crumbling historic walls and the stone arch into the beloved wedding gazebo, popular every
day for its serene overlook into the gardens and greenbelt. To help restore and maintain the gardens,
Mayfield put out the call for volunteers. Quickly, individuals, families and community
groups jumped in to adopt one of the over 30 plots. – [Karen] And since then we just have volunteers
who come, they want to come. There’s something, as you very well know,
therapeutic about working in the garden. – [Narrator] The ponds needed attention, too. The Austin Pond Society dived right in to
help clean, maintain, care for the fish, and refurbish the water plants. Ruben Angeles from Austin Parks and Recreation
jumped in with the Pond Society’s Steven Monfrini after October 2018’s flooding rains clogged
up the works. – Right now the leaves are dying off more
quickly because we don’t have the sun and the blooms come up but they just really fall
quickly so we try to get them. So we try to get volunteers to help Ruben. With the pond plants, as they die you cut
them off because you don’t want all that matter to go to the bottom of the pond because then
that creates problems later. It just sits down there and gets into pond
muck and eventually that can start harming your fish. One problem that I have noticed and all our
gardeners at one time or another, we have fire ant mounds especially after all the rain
we’ve had and they want to be right in our electrical circuit area where we’re gonna
plug our pumps in. And they just mound around that. If it trips the breaker then it makes our
pump go out. Today when we got here at Mayfield the pump
had clogged. Swallowtails have eaten all the water celery
in the bog and they did the same thing to our pond at home this weekend and I’ve never
seen that problem. I don’t know if it’s because of the rain or
what. So, we’re gonna have a lot butterflies soon. – [Narrator] Along with plant maintenance,
including dividing when needed, Pond Society members donate new plants for seasonal diversity. – We saved some from each of the plants that
were here, we brought in more plants, and we brought in a lot of lotus. In bloom he had six or eight lotus blooming
at one time here. The brides this summer were just happy with
their pictures, they were beautiful. – [Narrator] So far, in two ponds, they resealed
to prevent leaks, using black to discourage algae. – It was painted white, the sun it’s just
algae, that’s all it is. – [Narrator] She and Ruben scavenged a piece
of wood to harbor turtles. – I call it turtle island in our pond and
we’re gonna do one in each pond. So the turtles come up there to sun themselves. And the kids that come here love to see the
turtles. It’s just more fun for the whole family. We have completed the one pond and every year
it will just keep getting better and better. And we’ll continue putting koi and goldfish
and catfish, and bringing new plants over, and just making this a beautiful place for
everyone to come to enjoy. – [Narrator] Beyond the stone fence, where
the Mayfields and Gutsches once tramped, the Mayfield Preserve continues to harbor 21 acres
of wildlife habitat in the city. A collaboration of Parks and Recreation, the
Friends of Mayfield Preserve, and Austin Parks Foundation, a walking trail invites serene
contemplation to the tune of birds. Mary loved her hometown and wanted to protect
one of its treasures. Not everyone can leave a park to the city,
but thanks to volunteers who carved into busy schedules, Mayfield Park is one where Austin
history lives on. – Well, it’s a labor of love for one thing. It’s a park but it’s not a park like a playground
park. They appreciate the specialness of this place. It’s a place of respite. There’s a place on the wall, they sit in the
back and they put their feet up and they read their book and they just get therapy out of
just sitting. If it ever came to the point that it wasn’t
fun I would’ve quit but it was always fun. I loved it.