Magazine article Parks & Recreation

A Mighty Confluence

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

A Mighty Confluence

Article excerpt

CONSERVATION

River Recreation and Environmental Stewardship combine to make the San Antonio River stronger and healthier

When envisioning the San Antonio River, images of a bustling, urban tourist destination probably come to mind. nature and recreation have traditionally played second fi ddle to the commercial draw of the river in san antonio. In fact, many people are surprised to learn that the san antonio river is not an artifi cial channel created solely for tourism, but rather a natural river that extends more than 200 miles beyond the city. the san antonio river authority (sara), the regional governmental agency charged with protecting the river, is trying to change perceptions through several innovative projects.

The Mission Reach Ecosystem

the restoration and recreation Project and sara's nature Based Park Program seek to restore damaged ecosystems along the river, preserve functioning ecosystems, and encourage respect for and stewardship of the river through river recreation. the Mission reach Project is a multi-agency effort to restore the ecosystem of eight miles of river and create recreation opportunities in a historically underserved urban area. the nature Based Park Program includes the development of several new nature parks that focus on recreation in a near-pristine river ecosystem.

The Mission Reach-Reviving an Urban Ecosystem

For many years, the aesthetics and recreational amenities of the river beyond the River Walk attracted few tourists and recreation enthusiasts. During the 1960s, a massive channelization project was completed to manage flooding that plagued downtown San Antonio. This project straightened the river and removed vegetation from the flood plain to facilitate flood water conveyance. For decades, the channel has done its job of protecting downtown from devastating floods. However, it turned the river into little more than a drainage ditch with scarce aquatic and riparian habitat.

These conditions also created substantial barriers to river recreation. The historic River Walk contains many "street connections" where pedestrians can easily access the river. These connections were nonexistent elsewhere on the river. Furthermore, there were no trails to aid river recreation.

After years of careful planning, including extensive public input from area stakeholders, a concept for the Mission Reach was developed. In 2007, ground was broken on the eight-mile, $245 million project funded primarily by the Bexar County Visitor's Tax. SARA serves as project manager during the construction phase. After completion in 2013, SARA will oversee operations and maintenance of the Mission Reach. Two miles of the project are already open to the public and under SARA's care.

The project seeks to achieve several key goals:

* Restoring the damaged ecosystem: The project is transforming eight miles of degraded river into a quality riparian and aquatic ecosystem. In total, approximately 334 acres of riparian ecosystem are being restored, with more than 60 native grass and wildflower species and more than 20,000 native trees and shrubs being planted. Maintenance of the project also includes the substantial task of removing non-native invasive plant species. During one week in August 2010, crews removed over three tons of weeds from the project. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.