Something Monday, the new weekly bike ride in Southtown organized by The Rivard Report and San Antonio B-cycle, successfully mixed physical and mental recreation Monday night during its inaugural ride down the Mission Reach.
About 30 San Antonians – some new and some established members of the community – pedaled their way down the Mission Reach to hang out, learn about the San Antonio River Improvement Projects, and enjoy a beer in the company of new friends.
Real estate agents, engineers, fresh college grads, musicians, and bike enthusiasts from all over town mingled in the afternoon shade of the bright pink Liberty Bar before taking off on bikes for the Mission Reach trail at 6:30 p.m. Of the 27 attendees, about eight rented a B-cycle.
While many biking groups, clubs, and teams cater to a specific biking experience level, the team last night ranged from beginner to expert. Some wore flip-flops on a borrowed cruiser, some wore clip-in shoes on road bikes that cost thousands. Some wore helmets, most did not.
This group is a bit more inclusive of all skill-levels because the experience has more to do with socialization that comes with pairing physical activity with an educational aspect.
Matthew Driffill, the San Antonio River Authority’s Education Specialist, rode along and spoke to the group during stops at Roosevelt Park and Concepción Park about the unprecedented effort by the county, city and SARA and private donors to restore the river wildscape and give residents one of the longest linear parks in any American city, more than 2,000 acres in all.
It was an engaging presentation that took riders back hundreds of years when the river coursed a somewhat different path and provided the water and energy that gave life to a new city. Then Driffill turned from the past to the future and what the redevelopment would kindle in the way of future development. Soon enough, some riders began to ask if there were houses for sale along the Mission Reach.
Next Week’s Something Monday:
When: Monday, July 29, 6:30 p.m.
Where: We hope to ride Mission Road to Mission San José and then back to Mission Concepción to get an up-close looks at the extraordinary restoration that has preserved the Missions, where people in San Antonio have been gathering for more than two centuries. Details coming soon!
Read More: New Event: ‘Something Monday’
“The river used to essentially be treated like a drainage ditch,” he said, after the group slowed to a stop in front of the old CPS Energy power plant near Roosevelt Park. River water was diverted to cool the plant until its closing in 2003. It’s now one of the most intriguing redevelopment sites south of downtown.
The San Antonio River is no longer a drainage ditch. Once again, its a wild river, often with a mind of its own, witness recent storms that ravaged some of the newly planted sections of the Mission Reach.
Joggers and cyclists passed the Something Monday group as Driffill explained the priorities of the San Antonio River Improvements Project (SARIP): 1) Flood Control, 2) Wildlife/Ecosystem Restoration, 3) Recreation, and 4) Cultivate Cultural Connections.
As stakeholders work on each of these aspects, the river becomes more of an amenity and property values in the area go up. The San Antonio River’s connected parks are equal to three times the 840-acre Central Park in New York – about 2,500 acres “right in the middle of town,” he said.
The Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Project broke ground in 2008 and this year, on Oct. 5, the official grand opening party of the completed Mission Reach will celebrate with “five miles of party” including live music, booths, etc. along the trail (details coming soon as the party approaches).
Driffill also spoke of the importance and unique quality of partnerships surrounding the San Antonio River’s restoration and development. SARIP is managed by SARA, but funded by public money through the City, County, State, and Federal government through grants and taxes totaling about $358.3 million. Private money, mostly though the San Antonio River Foundation, has also been key to achieve the fourth priority through artistic work on the river. Confluence Park – surely a future Something Monday destination – will be the River Foundation’s crown jewel of educational recreation on the river. Read more: “Confluence Park: Nature’s Learning Laboratory Atop the Mission Reach.”
“For other cities,” Driffill said. “These (cross-jurisdictional projects) can mean lawsuits and (inaction) … we’ve been able to avoid all that.”
Even the San Antonio Archdiocese is in the mix as all the Missions – San José, San Juan, Espada, Concepción – save for the Mission de Valero a.k.a. The Alamo, still have active Catholic parishes and weekly services.
While these partnerships are impressive, Driffill said, none of this would have happened if officials hadn’t listened to their constituents. You and me.
“The citizen component is the most important … we get an ugly phone call from up high when people complain (to elected officials),” he said, smiling. Government bureaucracies might seem disconnected and slow at times, “but it’s easier than dealing with Time Warner Cable.”
Something Monday attendees were engaged and curious, asking questions about the surrounding neighborhoods. Close to 8 p.m., however, we were all a little anxious to get out of the sun and under the large tree canopy at La Tuna.
Almost everyone stayed through to hang out for a bite to eat or a drink of water, beer, or wine with their newfound group. Three energetic young ladies with matching shoes grabbed a beer and shared with me what made them join the Something Monday crowd.
None of them live near downtown, but they like to venture in after work and on the weekends, they said.
“We’re always on the lookout for thing to do to meet new people,” said Kim Olsen. “We saw it on Facebook and decided to try it out.”
While they aren’t avid bike riders, they’re hoping to make rides like this more often, said Kara Leyva: “Lately we’ve been riding more because there are a lot more community events like this.”
It’ll take a lot of improvements before San Antonio is truly bike-friendly, said Kayla Martinez.
“We need more bike lanes downtown and it’ll take a while for drivers to get used to it – the tourist drivers downtown are the ones you really have to look out for,” Kara said.
Riders trickled home via bikes and cars (parked just down the street near the take-off point) by about 9:30 p.m. Note for next time: bring your bike lights – you might want to hang out until dark. And do bring water.
Not bad for a Monday.