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

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Community member and former school teacher Gloria Ramirez has been visiting Brackenridge Park for years and is against many proposals put forth by the master plan. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Community member and former school teacher Gloria Ramirez has been visiting Brackenridge Park for years and is against many proposals put forth by the master plan.

More than 100 citizens poured into The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Monday afternoon to express concerns about the Brackenridge Park Master Plan during the fourth of six public meetings this summer hosted by the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. Some citizens provided input to help develop the vision for the proposed park plan, but many citizens told master plan designers that the proposed changes aren’t wanted or needed.

More green space, increased visibility, preservation of historic buildings, and the stripping of invasive plant species are some of the landmark goals of the new master plan. In addition, the plan aims to close down roads that wind through the park to make way for more green space, incorporate a 10-acre Grand Lawn in the place of a parking lot, and include some kind of tram system to transport people to the park’s main destinations. The goal is to increase use of a historic park that is, save for major holidays and events, largely underutilized.

To read the detailed master plan, click here.

But many people that attended the meeting in the Westside Monday night were worried that the essence of the park would be lost if the master plan elements were implemented and shared their discontent regarding the proposed parking garages on the outskirts of the park and street closures. They were afraid that the plan will allow the City to charge fees for parking and park use, because many families drive to the park for Easter, birthdays, fiestas, and picnics.

San Antonio Parks and Recreation Director Xavier Urrutia said that was incorrect. Urrutia assured audience members that “nothing is finalized” and reminded them that the master plan “is just a vision,” and no fees or programming for the park are in the plan as of yet.

“The vision is to restore, preserve, and protect,” he said, highlighting the importance of keeping with “ecological, historic, and cultural features.”

Improving water quality from the San Antonio River, reducing vehicular traffic, and increased neighborhood connectivity, are other goals of the plan Urrutia discussed. It’s possible that streets could be closed down only during certain events or seasons.

The master plan and input collected during the public meetings will be presented to City Council before it votes on the plan later this summer.

The new plan is being led by the City, the Brackenridge Park Conservancy and a consultant team, with Rialto Studio Principal and Landscape Architect James W. Gray, Jr. at the helm. Other firms are also involved in the plain aimed at reducing traffic and creating a more bike and pedestrian friendly park. While the plan does not specifically call for a fee structure for parking or park use, it has been discussed by park neighbors and stewards when considering how to best manage the park.

(Read More: Easter Campers Leave Piles of Trash in Brackenridge Park – Again)

Urrutia moderated the discussion on Monday and Councilwoman Shirley Gonzalez (D5) and Lynn Bobbitt, executive director of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy, were also in attendance and gave brief remarks encouraging the audience to participate in the discussion.

Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) speaks with community members before the public meeting. Photo by Scott Ball.

Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) speaks with community members before the public meeting. Photo by Scott Ball.

Citizens were invited to examine master plan visuals showcased on easels in the back of the room and to place dots on elements of the draft master plan that people like, are neutral about, or flat out don’t like. Several individuals refused to participate.

This planning exercise reminded attendee Anna Ramirez of the Spanish term “patronismo,” which translates to “we know what’s best for you.”

“I’m just a simple mother of four” said Belinda Glover, a mother in the community who says that many other citizens are just like her, and earn a minimum wage. “All we can do is go to the park.”

“It needs to be accessible and affordable for all of us,” said Victor Azios, a representative of AARP.

Several citizens said they disagreed with the proposed “people mover” trams because it would inhibit the seamless act of bringing belongings and set-up material that people easily haul from the trunks of their cars for use in the park. The overarching fear of those who voiced opinions on the microphone on Monday was stripping the park of its current accessibility to people from all walks of life.

Bill Glasscock, a senior citizen, wants the park to remain the same as do others who echoed his signature quote of the night: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

While some rejected all change, other participants said they wanted something to happen at the park, but said the draft master plan doesn’t reflect the needs of the city’s majority Hispanic population. Representatives of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and members of AARP echoed these concerns. Many participants stressed the importance of maintaining their traditions, especially Easter weekend celebrations in the park.

“It’s a tradition in the park” for people to bring their things for picnics and Easter Sunday celebrations said María Berriozábal, 75, a former San Antonio council member.

When she shows people in the park copies of the master plan, she said they tell her “Nos están echando señora.” (“They are kicking us out ma’am.”)

Others sneered at “The Grand Lawn,” concept. Berriozábal said the park needs more trees, not open lawns.

“We’re used to plazas and patios, and parques, a place of conviviality, a place where people come to make a sense of who they are as a community,” said community member Tómas Ibarra. “To limit access to this is to tear us under.”

Gray, the lead designer of the plan, stood up an introduced himself to the audience. He explained that one of the many priorities of the plan is to listen to community input.

“I’m very sympathetic to what I’m hearing tonight. I want you all to know that we’re listening,” he said “One of the hallmarks of our firm is that we listen, and we’re gonna do the right thing for San Antonio.”

The next two-hour public meetings, all at 6 p.m., are scheduled for:

For more information visit the Parks and Recreation website.

https://rivardreport.wildapricot.org

 

Top image: Community member and former school teacher Gloria Ramirez has been visiting Brackenridge Park for years and is against many proposals put forth by the master plan.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

Related Stories:

The Public Responds to Brackenridge Park Master Plan

Brackenridge Park Master Plan: More People, Fewer Cars

Easter Campers Leave Piles of Trash in Brackenridge Park – Again

Hundreds Convene at Pearl to Build a Better Broadway

Brackenridge Park: San Antonio’s Neglected Crown Jewel

10 thoughts on “Brackenridge Park: Some Say ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It’

  1. If you cannot attend a meeting, I would encourage you to share your feedback by e-mail or mail.

    Email: BrackenridgeParkMasterPlan@sanantonio.gov

    Mail:
    Parks and Recreation
    Attn: Brackenridge Park Master Plan
    PO BOX 839966
    San Antonio, TX 78283-3966

    And here is an alternate urban plan that addresses pedestrian accessibility and bike access while utilizing a conservative approach.

    http://nowcastsa.com/blogs/opinion-expensive-car-centric-brackenridge-park-master-plan-should-refocus-pedestrians-access-

    • Confused as to why no meetings are being held AT brack park or close to it… Those of us that live by the park should have a say just as much as the retirees and Moms. I’ve long been disappointed at how underutilized and disorganized Brack Park is… We should be having concerts at Sunken Garden every day–it’s stunning. And the Japanese Tea Garden is so underappreciated. Having a Great Lawn is an amazing idea. This concept that having it will not promote “community” is absurd. I can imagine folks coming to the park, meeting up to play Frisbee or lay in the sun and read a book…. Tired of the anti-change rhetoric

  2. All of us who use the Park have special memories of family picnics, birthdays, paddle boats walks, splashing across the low water crossing and more. I didn’t camp on Easter, but I spent many a Easter looking for hidden eggs. The conversations taking place about Brackenridge Park are important, and I respect the opinions. However, I present another view. There are things that need to be done. I encourage everyone to take a closer look when you are in the Park–maintenance has not kept up with the heavy usage. For example, the river walls are in deterioration, the heritage trees are dying from age and drought, the Dionicio Rodriquez trabajo rustico pieces (concrete and steel sculptures that resemble wood) need restoration, the river banks in Lambert beach need dredging and the water quality improved so that paddle boats might be brought back, the old pump house, the first municipal water system in San Antonio, is waiting to be renovated as well as the 1920s bath houses. The Spanish colonial dam and acequia could be restored to celebrate the Tricentennial of San Antonio’s founding. So, let’s keep talking. The Brackenridge Park Conservancy, created to be a steward and advocate for the Park, will continue to invite discussion about how to make visits to the park for all of us even more enjoyable. The Conservancy supports the process underway to solve problems and to seize opportunities to protect the open space that is free and open to the public.

  3. After living in other cities around the country and moving to San Antonio several years ago, I think it is self-evident that portions of Breckenridge Park are “broke” and worth fixing. Miraflores Park and its sculptures have been behind a fence for at least seven years, perhaps decades. The park is full of paved surfaces and does not have much of a presence on Broadway. A large portion of the original tract is devoted to two pursuits: parking vehicles and golf. Few events are held at the Sunken Gardens and pedestrian access could be improved throughout the park. I fail to see how removing pavement and moving vehicles to the exterior of the park will disadvantage the community, especially if free transportation is provided from the garages and the handicapped access is improved in the process.

    It’s an amazing community resource that is waiting to be revitalized. I can understand the concern of some community members about access and cost. These differences are difficult to bridge because they reach to the core of what is means to be a “park”. My recent trips to such cities as Houston, Dallas and Austin indicate that most major cities are making great efforts to improve the quality and amount of green space and trails available to local citizens. Just last weekend I found myself jealous of a friend in Dallas (of all places) when he showed me the network of biking and hiking trails near White Rock Lake in his neighborhood. Traversing the Broadway and 281 corridor on foot or bicycle is still downright dangerous. Even in the nice parts of San Antonio, sidewalks can be impassible and bike lanes non-existent.

    We have a chance in this lifetime to restore the San Antonio River area and provide walking and biking trails that stretch all the way from downtown up into the Olmos Creek drainage and beyond. Much of this work has been completed during the past decade through the extension of the Riverwalk and the greenway trails on the city’s exterior areas. But the resistance to change in this town has always been strong, regardless of race and class. Limited budgets and lack of imagination can be overcome, but it remains to be seen whether San Antonio is ready to make the leap.

  4. I’m Hispanic and I fail to see what loading a car and driving to Brackenridge park on Easter has to do with my heritage. Just because some Hispanics have done this before doesn’t make it a part of our culture. Let’s call this what it is, an excuse to try and use race as an attempt to halt some much needed progress.

  5. I would love for the paddleboats to return. Any possibility for the sky ride or horseback riding?

    Now a grammar question. Why is the ”S” in Sunday in Maria Berriozabal’s quote lower case? Sunday is a proper noun.

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