How a long-awaited kiosk project brought a resident carpenter out of the woodwork.
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A Community Board is Born
Sometimes connection is built through a warm hug or homemade meal. And sometimes it’s built through Eastern Red Cedar logs and galvanized timber locks.
Anyone who’s had the chance to walk or bike through Walnut Bluffs park in Austin recently has seen the Texas wildflowers in rare form, lining paths dappled by sunlight and serenaded by chirping crickets. Many may have also noticed the trailhead’s newest feature: a 5-by-7 wooden kiosk signboard showcasing important neighborhood information and local events.
The kiosk had been a long-awaited addition to the Walnut Creek neighborhood, and after years of discussion was finally made possible through the creativity and generosity of several neighbors. It represents a crucial connection point for neighbors to communicate offline, but is also a symbol of the myriad wonderful—and often untapped—talents and resources available in our communities.
The custom kiosk was designed and fabricated by Walnut Creek’s own Allen Lamme, a woodworker and professional cabinet installer. When Allen heard about the project, he said felt like the missing piece to the puzzle. He saw a way to give back to the community while utilizing his skills in carpentry and project management.
“The question was how do we take the energy and great ideas [for a kiosk] and turn that into reality, and that’s what I do,” he said. “I put the pieces together.”
Allen represents a rarity in the Walnut Creek community, and in Austin as a whole. He was born and raised in the neighborhood and now lives in the home purchased by his late parents in the 1970’s. He remembers a time before the neighborhood was incorporated by the city—when it was surrounded by farmland and houses ran on septic systems and people shot off fireworks in the street.
“I was going to the park since before it had the trailhead marker,” Allen said. “I used to grab bamboo from the creek and hit trees with it. And I used to try to climb the trees. People thought I was a weird kid.”
Allen claims to keep to himself, but get him talking and he can give a detailed account of the neighbors who have come and gone over the past 37 years on Whitewing Avenue: Their names, their kids names, the years they moved in, who moved to Panama, who had a sourdough bread making phase, and who drinks Lone Star beer.
He’s had dinner with his neighbors, watched movies with them, helped maintain their trees, provided babysitting and catsitting, and even adopted one former resident’s aging pig (RIP Earl).
But for all his history in the neighborhood, Allen said he has felt disconnected on his side of Walnut Creek, which is named after the stream that runs through it.
“I always feel isolated on this two street run because of the creek,” he said. “I think it would be nice if there was more of a connection between the two sides of the neighborhood.”
The kiosk project was Allen's way to help build that connection.
He partnered with We’re All Neighbors—which organized and funded the project—to design the kiosk and install it on private property next to the park entrance (thank you to neighbors Tina and Brian Vick and Sally Richardson for sharing your space!).
The kiosk is constructed from Eastern Red Cedar coated with Australian timber oil, which has a UV inhibitor to protect it from the sun, Allen said. The posts are buried 3 feet deep and secured with limestone skipping stones, as opposed to concrete.
“I’ve done a lot of hiking and park trips and I’ve seen kiosks and always thought ‘I could do that better’,” Allen said. “We went with a pretty minimalist design; a balance of utilitarian and aesthetically pleasing.”
Allen attributes his love of carpentry and woodworking to his father, an architect and amateur woodworker. From a young age, Allen would accompany his father and uncle to construction job sites, and in high school he helped rebuild and renovate the family’s rental property which was destroyed in a house fire.
In 2010, Allen started working as a cabinet installer and is now a full-time contractor for several companies, with a shelf full of awards to prove his mastery of the craft. His garage workshop is stocked with planing and sanding equipment, rare wood, and in-progress projects including custom cutting boards and a raw edge bench. In his spare time—which he says isn’t much—he tends to his 24 fruit trees, chickens, raised bed gardens, and twin cats, Leo (Rolly Polly) and Persephone.
Allen said he knows the Walnut Creek neighborhood will continue to experience a lot of change, but hopes that the community preserves the character of its older houses and large lot sizes.
“It would be nice to see people continue to renovate without demolishing and putting in a bunch of new [builds],” he said.“I feel like the reason the neighborhood is nice is because people like to keep it the way it is.”
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