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Urban Campground: Pecan Grove in Austin and Bill, the Ball Man

February 5, 2015

What's not to love about parking in a grove of graceful old pecan trees in the heart of Austin, Texas? Here we are nestled comfortably between Uncle Billy's Brew Pub and Thom's, a heavy on the wine and cheese market.

Pecan Grove in Austin

Just a few steps past the brewery is a parking lot filled with food trucks and picnic tables. Famous Chuy's Tex/Mex is just beyond that, and walk on over the creek to Zilker Park, a 350 acre park where dogs can be off leash 24/7. Behind the campground is Lady Bird Johnson Lake and the hike and bike trail that circles it.

Urban Sketching in Wilmington, North Carolina(click to enlarge)

In this funky campground, populated by more than a dozen old airstreams and no fewer that 15 pink flamingos, we find ourselves completely in our element. It is one of the few places in our travels where we have made life long friends.

One very special friend is Bill Jennings.

Bill was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and after that he worked for years flying copters in Angola ferrying workers out to the off shore oil platforms.

Bill Jennings

Retired now, he lives in a large Fifth Wheel trailer in Pecan Grove RV Park. What was once his leisure time, he spent kayaking on the lake. He has been paddling on the these waters for years and what started as a casual activity became way more than just exercise.

Bill Jennings

Several years ago, as he paddled, he started picking up balls that were floating or washed ashore around the lake, cleaning them and giving them to animal shelters.

Bill Jennings

He was stunned by the number of balls and Frisbees he found, along with floating toys… mostly rubber duckies. He even amassed a collection of over a thousand ping pong balls??? (Where did they come from?) He got serious and began keeping a record of his "finds" along with his kayaking workout record. So, where once his log contained only the date, distance, max speed, average speed and duration of his paddles, he began to include the number of balls found as well.

Bill Jennings

It became a task of environmental responsibility. He also started writing about some of his experiences on the lake as well as about things he learned from old timers and people who worked on the water.

Two of Bill's Essays:

His boxes of "trash" became voluminous and there was only one thing to do—


Bill Jennings

Bill has started upclycling the lake's trash into contemporary art pieces. Where some artists use plastic bottles or found metal, Bill is making Ball Art. Real art and real environmental action is taking place.

He is an irreplaceable asset to the beauty of Austin's great recreation area and at the same time is beginning to contribute green art to the community.

Lovely to meet Bill! Thanks for sharing his story, his essays + love his "ball art." Enjoy your time in Austin.

Cindy S

Fascinating! Hard to believe how much stuff is just thrown away or discarded in our society. Lady Bird, who was so concerned about the beauty of our environment, must be smiling!


Imagine if there were an army of "Bills" out there cleaning up water ways.... or doing similar work to keep the environment cleaned up. I live by Bill and the volume of work he does is outstanding! He will be the LAST to draw attention to himself for it but I for one.... am a huge Fan! Go Bill Go!

Mike L


Jim S

An historical question - when did Texas become cool? (I assume sometime after Robert Caro did his research.)


Great story. Thanks!

Anita M

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