Voters Embrace San Antonio's Vision Of Greenways And Creek-side Trails

By Jody Mayes Castro, San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department

The Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail System in San Antonio currently boasts a total of 41 miles of completed trail and several more miles of trail under construction and in the design phase.

January 01, 2010

San Antonio's Greenways offer easy access for healthy recreation; photo from San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department

Voters in San Antonio have agreed to tax themselves to protect the Edwards Aquifer and build a network of trails and parks along streams in the region. Over 40 miles of trails have been completed through the Linear Park Creekway Development Program which is funded through sales tax approved by voters in 2000, 2005, and 2010. Approximately 1,200 acres of property along San Antonio Creekways have been acquired for the program since its inception. Sales tax revenue has enabled the protection of 96,000 critical acres above the aquifer, both through land purchases or conservation easements.

The sales tax initiative originally approved by voters in 2000 raised $20 million, enough to fund 11 miles of trails. In 2005, Peak led a campaign to renew the tax for $45 million to add 38 miles of trails and again in 2010, the voters approved the continuation of the sales tax designation to build an additional 30 miles of trail. The trail systems funding to date incorporates 89 miles planned trails in an overall system goal that could ultimately yield 130 miles of hike and bike trails along the creekways.

The trails along several stream corridors throughout the city offer easy access for healthy recreation opportunities from multiple trailheads and points of access. The trail system is currently transforming the way of life in the Metro San Antonio area by introducing and promoting the physical and practical benefits of recreational and commuter trail use. Residents of Texas cities are historically car-dependent. This Greenways initiative aims to preserve and enhance riparian corridors, enhance the public’s appreciation of nature and greatly expand the number of San Antonio residents who walk, ride, stroll, or skate for recreation.

Boardwalks are needed for continuity of the Greenway; photo by Stuart Macdonald

Boardwalks are needed for continuity of the Greenway; photo by Stuart Macdonald

“The trails, which are paved and ten feet wide in most locations to accommodate walkers, runners and cyclists, have been very well received and widely used,” Special Projects Manager Brandon Ross says.

“On any given day dozens of cyclists, hikers, walkers and joggers can be found recreating on the greenways. Parents also take advantage of the trail system to spend quality time recreating with their children and the trails are also heavily used for special events such as 5k runs and by numerous walking and running groups.”

As part of San Antonio’s ongoing efforts to increase opportunities for our citizens to stay active and fit, several of the trails provide easy access to park amenities and fitness opportunities, including new outdoor fitness stations.

Greenway trails that are currently open to the public include the Leon Creek South Loop Trail which provides connections to the Parks and Recreation Department’s Enrique Barrera Fitness Center, Levi Strauss Park and Rodriguez County Park, Leon Creek Greenway South from Pearsall Park to Quintana Road, the Leon Creek Greenway North from Loop 1604 and IH-10 to Ingram Rd., the Salado Creek Greenway North from McAllister Park to Rittiman Rd., the Salado Creek Greenway North from Huebner to Blanco Rd., the Salado Creek Greenway South from Jack White Park to South Side Lions Park, and the Medina River Greenway located east of State Highway 16 on the south side of San Antonio.

A 2.4 mile extension of the Salado Creek Greenway North from Hardberger Park to West Avenue, near Walker Ranch Historic Landmark Park, is currently under construction and more trails are currently funded and under design including extensions of the Medina River Greenway Trail and Leon Creek Greenway North from Ingram Rd. to Military Dr.

The San Antonio river near downtown; photo by Christie Jackson

The San Antonio river near downtown; photo by Christie Jackson

Former Mayor Howard W. Peak began formulating the idea of a "ring' of hike and bike trails in flood zones along city-owned creeks while working in the City’s Planning Department and while serving on the Zoning Commission. As a City Councilman representing District 9 from 1993 to 1997, he partnered with Councilman Lyle Larson to purchase the land which began the trail system in Walker Ranch Historic Landmark Park.

As mayor from 1997 to 2001, he solidified his vision of hike and bike trails along Leon and Salado Creeks and won citizen support to dedicate one-eighth of a cent of the sales tax to begin development of the trail system in partnership with the Edwards Aquifer Program.

The Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Project is transforming an eight-mile stretch of the San Antonio River into a quality riparian woodland ecosystem. This unique project restores riverine features and riparian woodlands, reintroduces native plants, enhances aquatic habitat, reconnects cultural and historical features and includes hike and bike trails and other recreational amenities.