Three Epic Park Projects That Could Transform SA
Published: July 31, 2013
“This is not your typical park,” Avery said from her office within the San Antonio River Authority headquarters, “no swing sets, no grilling, no birthday parties.” Like Confluence, Avery is petite and matter-of-fact. The ideas for Confluence, so named because it’s located where San Pedro creek and the San Antonio River converge, came about from asking the River Authority’s existing educational outreach coordinators what they needed to get more kids to the river for field trips and lessons.
Some of the requirements were rudimentary: a parking lot that could accommodate school busses; a place to store equipment and educational materials; a pavilion where field trippers could gather and eat lunch or attend an outdoor class.
The Foundation soon went beyond basic, envisioning an interactive learning destination to compensate for the very little outdoor-oriented education most public school children receive. They recruited big name firm Ball-Nogues out of Los Angeles, Calif., to design the park, including a solar-powered pavilion, community gardens, rainwater catchment, and interactive learning stations based on the area’s biodiversity. Local artist and former SARF board member Stuart Allen is the project manager.
SARF is already in talks with local universities to implement something like a residency program for graduate students in relevant fields, which would provide nearby housing in exchange for research conducted along the San Antonio river and possibly some caretaker-type work.
While education is the privately funded Confluence’s primary focus, Avery says the Foundation plans to make the park available to the public as well. “We want it to be used all the time,” she said. The current eye-catching design, still very much in the conceptual phase, is a deliberate play to get the attention of likeminded communities and organizations, so that they too might consider a sustainable outdoor education facility a neighborhood necessity.
Not every green space project needs to have top-dollar design and King Ranch-sized sites to be transformative, however. The River Authority is involved in another joint effort that hopes to bring the success of the river expansions and the Leon and Salado creek greenways to much smaller streams.
A frayed knot of channelized creeks—Alazán, Apache, Martínez and San Pedro—currently define San Antonio’s West Side. From Martínez Creek near Hildebrand Avenue down to the Apache and San Pedro creeks which eventually converge with the San Antonio River near Confluence Park’s site on the South Side, these waterways were last touched by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control purposes in the 1950s-70s, creating effective, but ugly and ultimately neglected, areas of negative space throughout several residential zones.
Some of the creek beds, like Martinez, are coated in overgrown weeds and grasses as high as five feet tall running from the stream itself right up to what few crumbling sidewalks border the creek. Others have feeble “No Dumping” signs amid banks covered in broken glass, plastic bags and, in one case, a television set that had tumbled down the bank, leaving bits of wire, screen and casing in its wake. In each area, the creek causes streets to dead end and splits neighborhoods into pieces.
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