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Three Epic Park Projects That Could Transform SA

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A conceptual design for Confluence Park

But these creeks also display their own lush ecosystems filled with native plants and birds. Peering down the banks, one can easily envision sidewalks and trails. Before channelization, which created steep trapezoidal banks of grass or concrete, residents of the adjacent neighborhoods used the creeks for swimming, fishing and foraging, according to community input workshops held in 2009. With a little landscaping and environmental stewardship plus some thought put into lighting and rest areas, these natural greenways could again become pleasant gathering spots and pedestrian-friendly connections for the inner West Side.

That’s been the aim of the Westside Creeks Restoration joint project, an effort between SARA, Bexar County, the City of San Antonio and USACE formally started in 2008. If completed as currently planned, the restoration project would bring just over 14 miles of trails between Hildebrand Avenue and the San Antonio River, connecting significant sites like Woodlawn Lake Park, Our Lady of the Lake University and the Little Flower Basilica.

“One of our goals here … [is] trying to bring people back to the rivers and creeks so that they have an appreciation of the resources there,” said SARA’s Russell Persyn, watershed manager, earlier this summer. Through a series of community input meetings in 2009 and 2010, residents indicated they wanted hike and bike trails along the creeks, more park and public art opportunities and some connection to area attractions.

“When the creeks were channelized it severed neighborhoods,” said Rudy Farias, a member of the West Side Creeks Restoration Oversight Committee since 2008. “Through this restoration, [residents] see reconnecting.”

In a conceptual plan released in 2011, the Westside Creeks Restoration Oversight Committee proposes plazas at the dead-end streets abutting the creeks, low-water pedestrian crossings, and 11 “gateways” for residents to easily access the trails from their neighborhoods. Specific projects include expanding existing parks like Mario Farias park on Alazán and Martínez creeks to creating community gardens and public art along Apache creek near the Guadalupe Cultural Arts district. San Pedro Creek, part of which traverses downtown between South Flores and I-35, is part of the plans as well, although its flavor is decidedly more tourist- and economic development-oriented than its tributaries to the west.

“These creeks won’t mimic the San Antonio river expansions,” said Jenkins, the City’s parks project manager, “but they will have some similar components like the presence of native plants, benches and artwork. [They] will have their own flavor because obviously the West Side has its own cultural heritage.”

Residents in general seem supportive of the plans. “I feel that the West Side creeks project can be a very good development … and will spur economic development in the area,” wrote Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association President Jason Mata in an email. However, Mata expressed some hesitation about how the needed right-of-ways would be acquired, worrying about eminent domain in particular. “We prefer that the project find other ways [than eminent domain] to make the project a reality.”

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