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Three Epic Park Projects That Could Transform SA

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

A conceptual design for Confluence Park

In 2011, the proposed total for the first phase recommendations along all four creeks was just shy of $300 million, in the range of the San Antonio River Improvements budget. While that sum seems eye-popping compared to either Pearsall or Confluence’s budget, the total area and populations impacted are bigger than either due to the creeks’ linear nature through a dense urban environment. San Antonio voters already opted to reauthorize a 1/8 cent sales tax to fund the projects, and the restoration’s practical application as a needed flood control update could help secure USACE and state money.

Just funding the creation of these spaces alone isn’t enough to revitalize these South and West Side neighborhoods, though. Many San Antonio parks, particularly those in low-income areas, already suffer from subpar maintenance and security. For instance, Jason Mata in Prospect Hill pointed out that Elmendorf Lake Park, the largest and most accessible park in his neighborhood, needs more policing and lighting, a concern echoed continually in various neighborhood association and community group meetings throughout the city. During the community input phase of Confluence Park, enough residents raised concerns about noise and loitering to convince the River Foundation to gate the park and lock it up at night.

“One of the aspects of my job is to plan these improvements out,” said Jenkins when asked about continued funding to Pearsall and the West Side creeks projects. “It’s always a balancing act to make sure the parks department is funded,” she continued. “It is a struggle, I won’t lie about that, but it is something that we plan for.”

If these plans do get off the ground, completed and maintained, the payoff could be huge. Since each of these projects connect to a larger, existing green space—Pearsall to the Leon Creek greenway, Confluence Park to Mission Reach, and the West Side creeks to Confluence, Elmendorf and Woodlawn lakes, and the River Walk—each has the potential to not only help residents enjoy their own neighborhood more, but help any San Antonio outdoor enthusiast, from bikers and hikers to kayakers and zip liners, discover a neighborhood they may have never explored before. That’s the kind of civic connectivity often wished for but rarely realized, and it just might happen here in the next five years. Jenkins summed up her department’s expectations, stating simply “It’s just a very exciting time.”

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