Brackenridge Park Plan Headed to Council Committee

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María Berriozábal, 75, a former San Antonio council member, has been to several of the public meetings. Photo by Rocio Guenther.

María Berriozábal, 75, a former San Antonio council member, has been to several of the public meetings. Photo by Rocio Guenther.

A heated discussion about the Brackenridge Park Master Plan took place at Ramirez Community Center Wednesday evening during one of the last scheduled public input sessions before the draft goes before City Council for a vote in August.

Raised voices and, at times, chaotic interruptions demonstrated at least one thing for sure: San Antonians are deeply passionate about public space.

More than 50 people attended the more than two-hour meeting hosted by the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department.

Citizens from all over city came to provide input to help improve – or prevent development of – the proposed vision for the plan, but an overwhelming majority of attendees were upset that the plan was drafted before community input was collected. They accused the City and its design partners of ignoring the needs of the average parkgoer and called for more public meetings for Brackenridge Park and other city projects.

“We need to start over,” said Cynthia Brim, 58, a graduate student at St. Mary’s University. “Do this for the people.”

Lynn Bobbit executive director of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy, and Councilman Robert Treviño (D1) and Rey Saldaña (D4) attended the meeting and gave brief remarks to encourage citizen participation, highlight their support, and listen to the process.

Homer Garcia III, acting assistant director for the City’s Parks Department, summarized the different strategies in the master plan, emphasizing that “it’s only a vision plan” and that it’s important that “it’s supported by the community.”

The five strategies of the draft master plan highlight the importance of preserving, protecting, and restoring the park. Key strategies for the park include improving the quality of the San Antonio river banks, preserving the acequias, closing some streets, opening up more green space, replacing surface lots with parking garages, and more pedestrian access.

(Read more: Brackenridge Park Master Plan: More People, Fewer Cars)

To read the detailed master plan draft, click here.

Homer Garcia III, acting assistant director for Parks & Recreation summarizes the different strategies in the master plan. Photo by Rocio Guenther

Homer Garcia III, acting assistant director for Parks & Recreation summarizes the different strategies in the master plan. Photo by Rocio Guenther

Wednesday evening’s audience were strongly opposed to proposed parking garages along the park perimeter and the trams or “people movers.”

Many of those who stepped up to the microphone said they couldn’t imagine how families would use the trams to haul all their picnic material, their disabled abuelitas, or other necessities for a traditional family gathering at Brackenridge.

For many working class families, some said, driving through the park in their cars during a free moment of their day is a “tradition” that road closures would abolish. Others were afraid that if the plan goes forward, the City or company running the trams, would implement fees on parkgoers.

Garcia reiterated that the draft of the master plan does not have any proposals for park fees of any kind.

Several senior citizens said that the seamless coming and going of cars through the park and the available parking near green areas, is still the best system when it comes to park access.

“It’s not that we don’t want change, we just want accessibility” said senior citizen Edward C. Mata.

More than 50 showed up to the Ramirez Community Center as the afternoon progressed to voice their opinions about the master plan. Photo by Rocio Guenther

More than 50 people showed up to the Ramirez Community Center to voice their opinions about the master plan. Photo by Rocio Guenther

“It’s not a zoo. It’s a living, breathing part of our community,” said Palm Heights Neighborhood Association President Allen Townsend, responding to sentiments from other participants who claimed they don’t want to ride trams, which seem more appropriate for places like “Disneyland,” but not a public park.

What citizens did agree on, however, was the betterment of the Sunken Garden Theater, and implementing necessary renovations there.

Gianna Rendon, 22, says that as a millennial she does not approve of the master plan draft. Photo by Rocio Guenther.

Gianna Rendon, 22, says that as a millennial she does not approve of the master plan draft. Photo by Rocio Guenther.

Gianna Rendon, 22, thinks that parks in general are being overtaken. Four years ago, she said, similar community meetings were held for proposed changes in Elmendorf Lake Park, but input from the community to keep the park’s popular pool was ignored.

Numerous attendees spoke of similar circumstances from years past, but most brought up the example of Hemisfair Park, claiming that it “has already been lost” to developers because of apartments and hotels slated for construction on what is supposed to be public park land.

“We’ve lost Hemisfair to developers, we don’t want to lose Brackenridge Park” was a sentiment repeated throughout the night.

Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation, a nonprofit formed to oversee the Council-approved multi-million dollar redevelopment plan and management of the park, will use leases and revenues from the hotel, apartments, and small businesses that will be located on the perimeter of the park to fund its programming and maintenance.

Participants shared memories of attending the park as children, shedding a light on the countless of generations that have enjoyed the park over the years.

“It’s our park,” they said.

“We need a balance (regarding) this plan. What I don’t want is to have local residents and park users treated like an invasive species,” said attendee Brady Alexander, a play on words from the plan that also calls for the removal of invasive plant and animal species.

Brady Alexander looks at renderings of the Breckenridge Park Master Plan. Photo by Rocio Guenther

Brady Alexander looks at renderings of the Brackenridge Park Master Plan. Photo by Rocio Guenther

What Happens Next?

All community input gathered at more than six community meetings will be brought to City Council’s Neighborhoods and Livability Committee on August 15. Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) chairs the committee that includes Alan Warrick (D2), Rey Saldaña (D4), Cris Medina (D7), and Ray Lopez (D6). Comment cards and video footage from the meetings will be made available on the Parks & Recreation website.

This 2 p.m. meeting in the Municipal Plaza Building is open to the public, but citizens on Wednesday called for a time change, as many of them will be at work at that time.

Once the committee reviews the information gathered from the public meeting, they will decide if more discussion is needed on the Brackenridge Park Master Plan, or if they should go forward with full Council consideration the draft.

Rialto Studio Principal and Landscape Architect James W. Gray, Jr. looks on and takes notes about what is being said. Photo by Rocio Guenther

Rialto Studio Principal and Landscape Architect James W. Gray, Jr. looks on and takes notes about what is being said. Photo by Rocio Guenther

Rialto Studio Principal and Landscape Architect James W. Gray, Jr., the lead designer of the plan, told the Rivard Report that the meetings have illuminated areas in the plan that need adjustment.

Gray said that most of those who have come to the meetings have highlighted certain “lightning rod issues” but have not read the full master plan draft, which would quench the fire of some of their assumptions.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there, they need to read the full plan,” he said. “The plan doesn’t talk about closing all the roads,” only a select few.

And by reading the entire plan, people will likely find elements that they actually like he said. There has been “overwhelming support regarding the restoration of the catalpa perishing channel” and turning it into “a natural design with walkways.”

Gray added that the design firms involved in the project are open to design changes, and that it is an ongoing design, which is why it is called “a draft master plan.”

 

https://rivardreport.wildapricot.org

 

Top image: María Berriozábal, 75, a former San Antonio council member, has been to several of the public meetings. Photo by Rocio Guenther.

Related Stories

Brackenridge Park: Some Say ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It’

City Seeks Feedback on Brackenridge Park Master Plan

The Public Responds to Brackenridge Park Master Plan

Brackenridge Park Master Plan: More People, Fewer Cars

4 thoughts on “Brackenridge Park Plan Headed to Council Committee

  1. “… brought up the example of Hemisfair Park, claiming that it “has already been lost” to developers because of apartments and hotels slated for construction on what is supposed to be public park land.”

    The Hemisfair redevelopment is actually expanding public park to three times the usable amount that was there before redevelopment, for a total of ≈19 acres of public parks. That land is protected as parkland, and separate from developable parcels, where new developments will be constructed.

    Those new developments return the neighborhood to pre-1968 levels of residential density (displaced by the construction of the 1968 World’s Fair), and also provide new shops and restaurants that help draw locals into the parks. And, as the article rightly points out, the leases from those new structures help to fund the operations and activation of public parks in Hemisfair, making sure they are kept clean, safe and full of fun events for the community – while minimizing the strain on taxpayer dollars.

  2. The new residential building development (” restoring pre-1968 level”) is NOT designed for residents whose income is approximately at the level of those displaced to build Hemisfair (even adjusted for inflation, etc.) Further- more, RESIDENTS who go to public spaces and parks do NOT do so for the purpose of shopping or eating at restaurants. There are plenty of other places for that commercial activity–downtown and through out the city. This was ALL public space (minus the ever-expanding and ever more expensive Convention Center) for a variety of uses— NONE for private revenue producing apartments, stores, hotel rooms, restaurants,etc.—prior to recent demolition and restructuring and “development” As to providing funds to maintain the Hemisfair”park” and provide events/entertainment on its grounds through commercial leases, residents ALREADY pay a variety of taxes designed to maintain genuine parks and maintained, shaded public greenspaces and venues for indoor and outdoor recreation/events—-as well as an exorbitant salary to the current City Manager.

  3. I wrote an op-ed published by NowcastSA in June exploring relatively low-cost, ‘light’ and quick ways to improve pedestrian access to and within Brackenridge Park where there appears to be a strong need — as well as where recent past ‘masterplanning’ for the Brackenridge Park area (2011) suggests is appropriate.

    For example, the public cost of the latest round of Brackenridge Park planning (approx. $250k) is equivalent to roughly four new B-Cycle stations near the park (est. $55k-$75k per station) that along with other work could help improve pedestrian access to the Park from the west — including along St Mary’s Street.

    With my op-ed, I also suggest ways to maximize use of existing surface as well as structured parking in and near Brackenridge Park (compatible with 2011 planning recommendations) — to prioritize and improve public (including pedestrian and transit) access to and rights-of-way through the park, as well as with respect for the history of car-based picnics and mobile food and other vending in the park near Japanese Tea Gardens / the “Mexican Village” site (near present-day Tony ‘Skipper’ Martinez Softball Field and parking lot) since at least 1920.

    Unfortunately, the draft Brackenridge Park Plan appears to ignore existing B-Cycle stations, VIA routes and stops, mini-train depots, sidewalks, foot and wheel carved ‘desire lines’ and other active transport infrastructure and indicators suggesting where pedestrian improvements should be made with any future work.

    The draft Brackenridge Park Masterplan also neglects to reference and in some respects conflicts with planning that occurred for the park in 2009 (SARA’s Museum Reach Phase II – Park Segment and $13m allotment) as well as via the City’s approved 2011 ‘MidTown’ Brackenridge Plan — which recommends strengthening area VIA services as well as improving pedestrian and bike access to the park along St Mary’s Street, Mulberry Avenue west of and under 281, Stadium Drive near the SAWS site and Hildebrand Avenue via Brackenridge Road (which the draft Masterplan proposes to close as a public right-of-way).

    More critically, the draft Brackenridge Park Masterplan seems to endanger public access and rights-of-way and historic uses that contribute to Brackenridge Park being included in the National Register of Historic Places.

    The latest Brackenridge planning seems biased towards extremely costly ($150m) new structured parking, removal of Tony ‘Skipper’ Martinez Softball Field and parking lot and related uses, and closing of public rights-of-way including a major VIA transit corridor (St Mary’s Street- Tuleta Drive) serving schools as well as visitors as part of the current 11 VivaVIA route and linking with other routes.

    I have not attended public meetings but, based on a review of the draft Brackenridge Park Masterplan, I am not surprised to read about public outcry directed towards expensive, wasteful, inadequate and seemingly tone-deaf additional planning for Brackenridge Park that appears to ignore previous planing and expenditures, weaken public access and treat some historic and current uses of the park as ‘invasive’.

    See:

    Opinion: Expensive, car-centric Brackenridge Park Master Plan should refocus on pedestrians, access, bicycles (June 2016)
    http://nowcastsa.com/blogs/opinion-expensive-car-centric-brackenridge-park-master-plan-should-refocus-pedestrians-access-

    Council questions B-Cycle as it plans to add three stations (February 2016)
    http://www.expressnews.com/news/local/article/B-Cycle-pumps-up-San-Antonio-station-network-6838144.php

    Japanese Tea Gardens – History of Alamo Cement Factory Mexican-American / ‘Mexican Village’ vending at Brackenridge Park (2011)
    http://www.japanesegardening.org/sunkengardens/

    National Register of Historic Places – Registration Form (June 2011) – Including Car-Based Picnic image from the 1920s (p. 96, Figure 18)
    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=0ahUKEwj–_2khYPOAhXBOiYKHeZ_DdUQFgg_MAM&url=http%3A%2F%2Fbrackenridgepark.org%2Ffiles%2Fdownload%2F6bef161c8b5ec8c&usg=AFQjCNHgHc87EZEO-CO1G-CEMZfaUNylug&cad=rja

    San Antonio River Improvements Project (September 2009)
    http://www.dot.state.tx.us/iheep2009/presentations/0F_San_Antonio_RiverWalk_StevenSchauer.pdf

    ‘MidTown’ Brackenridge Masterplan (March 2011)
    https://www.sanantonio.gov/Portals/0/Files/Planning/NPUD/MidtownBrackenridgeTIRZMasterPlan.pdf

  4. The last few years Brack Park has looked awesome, well, except on Mondays when it is filled with trash.

    I hope the changes add to the beauty of the park.

    I remember when the wooded area was scary and ugly and finally it was fixed up with some walking trails and sculptures. Really nice know.

    And the area across from the HEB tree house and the Witte is a secret gem of San Antonio.

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