Isabel Garcia, a member of the Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas board of directors, read the following letter at a Brackenridge Park Proposed Master Plan public meeting on July 7, 2016 at the Phil Hardberger Park Urban Ecology Center. Scroll down to replay video of Garcia speaking at the meeting, and to see a PDF of the letter dated July 21.
The mission of Green Spaces Alliance is to sustain the natural environment and enhance urban spaces through land conservation, community, engagement and education. By protecting undeveloped land and water resources, cultivating urban green spaces and community and educating the next generation about the environment we depend on, we can help ensure a better quality of life now and in years to come. San Antonio is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, with regional population growth projected to double in the next 50 years. Urban growth, without careful planning and preservation, will disrupt the quality of life for all unless we plan for future development.
Brackenridge Park is a case in point. Established in 1899 and located below the headwaters of the San Antonio River, Brackenridge Park is a historic natural resource in an urban setting that serves the citizens of the city of San Antonio in many ways - as a green refuge for recreation and physical activity, as an outdoor venue for community gatherings and special occasion celebrations, and as a place where citizens and visitors alike go to learn about and/or remember the value and meaning of the river that runs through it. Today, however, the encroaching demands of private development in the surrounding areas threaten to erode the boundaries of the park and the amount of its acreage.
Green Spaces Alliance believes that the proposed Brackenridge Park Master Plan provides a positive and workable framework for managing several of the issues that must be addressed now and in the coming years. These issues include improving the water quality of the river, managing and improving the habitat of the flora and the fauna, restoring and/or repurposing historic building elements, restoring the San Antonio river channel and the Catalpa/Pershing channel to a more natural state and how to better direct and limit vehicular, pedestrian and alternative modes of transport through the park.
However, the Brackenridge Master Plan must be sensitive to and strike a balance between the restoration and improvement of natural resources in the Park and the historic and current view of Brackenridge Park as an urban park available for the public use of all of the citizens of San Antonio. Proposed new areas such as the “Great Lawn” must not limit traditional uses such as family barbeques, picnics, recreational activities and special occasion celebrations. If public perception is that the proposed Master Plan is targeting a different demographic than it does today, the support of current and future users will diminish.
Other concerns include the major and still problematic issue of how to address and implement solutions to the vehicular traffic issues in and around the park. This issue is the least resolved in the plan. Additionally, the ongoing presence of the feral cat population in the park requires the implementation of the general measures outlined in the plan and the inclusion of more proactive measures in order to insure the health and wellbeing of the park’s wildlife (birds, rodents, rabbits, squirrels, snakes, etc.).
In conclusion, Green Spaces Alliance congratulates the City of San Antonio and their many partners for putting together such a comprehensive and well considered ‘draft’ plan for the preservation and the future development of San Antonio’s beloved urban green gem. We applaud the focus on natural elements and water quality enhancements and encourage the further development of strategies to build a broad public support base that emphasizes stewardship of the park while focusing on education and community involvement in regard to environmental impact.
Suzanne B. Scott
E. Gail Gallegos