Bexar’s Eye: Construction at Eisenhower Park Brings Major Greenway Trail System Closer to Completion

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A walker makes his way through the extensive trail system at Dwight D. Eisenhower Park.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A walker makes his way through the extensive trail system at Dwight D. Eisenhower Park.

On any given day, dozens of hikers, walkers, and joggers of all ages can be seen up and down the trails of Dwight D. Eisenhower Park, a sprawling, City-owned nature preserve on San Antonio’s far North Side adjacent to Camp Bullis outside of Loop 1604.

Currently, the Greenway Trails System contains trails along several stream corridors, including Medina River Greenway System, Westside Creeks and Center City Trails, Leon Creek Greenway System, and Salado Creek Greenway System, with trails designed to connect to one another to create a single greenway system that circles the city’s perimeter.

The latest expansion for the City-run trail network, called Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail System, is underway in Eisenhower Park with the goal of developing a “ring” of hike and bike trails in flood zones along San Antonio creeks that also increase access to local parks.

The San Antonio Parks department is currently preparing to pave four miles of Eisenhower Park’s Hillview Natural Trail, which will continue west toward the Valero Park Trailhead near the University of Texas at San Antonio main campus. From there, it will continue along the Leon Creek Greenway System through the West Side. Overall the section will be about 18 miles.

Once paved, the Hillview Natural Trail will allow bicycle traffic, which already occurs but is currently prohibited.

The Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail plan

Courtesy / COSA

The Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail plan

Brandon Ross, project manager for the Greenway Trail System, said he expects more people to visit the park once the Salado and Leon Creek connection is complete, which will take about a year.

“This is some of the most beautiful property in the City, and making these trail connections with parks, and making entrances with walkable access to the Greenway provides an opportunity for a family to adventure safely from one to another, and increase the number of visitors [to San Antonio parks]” Ross said.

Ross, who started with the City of San Antonio Parks Department in 2006, leads a team attempting to bring to life former Mayor Howard W. Peak’s vision for a city-wide greenway trail that connects residents and promotes the physical and practical benefits of recreational and commuter trail use.

Peak, an urban planner by trade, formulated the Greenway Trails plan while working in the City’s Planning Department and while serving on the Zoning Commission in the 1990s. He worked with then-City Council members to purchase the initial land, which began the trail system in Walker Ranch Historic Landmark Park.

As mayor from 1997 to 2001, Peak solidified his vision of hike and bike trails along Leon and Salado Creeks in partnership with the Edwards Aquifer Program and won citizen support to dedicate one-eighth of a cent sales tax on every dollar spent in the City limits for creekway and aquifer protection projects. The plan was first approved by voters in 2000 and raised $20 million to fund 11 miles of trails. In 2005, Peak led a campaign to renew the tax, which raised $45 million to add 38 miles of trails.

In 2010, voters again approved the continuation of the sales tax designation to build an additional 30 miles of trail, and secured enough funding to afford 89 miles of planned trails for an overall system goal that could ultimately yield 130 miles of hike and bike trails along the creekways.

“I don’t think we knew how successful it would be when the first [sales tax initiative] passed,” Ross said. “But San Antonio voters have shown they are consistent with their commitment to the value of these projects.”

Brandon Ross points out the entrance to the new trail.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Brandon Ross points out the entrance to a new trail at Eisenhower Park.

Approximately 1,200 acres of property along San Antonio creekways has 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.

Ross said four members of his team are devoted to designing and constructing the Greenway Trail System, and one person works on land acquisition and planning. Trail construction began in 2008, and so far, 65 miles of paved trail has been developed along the Medina and San Antonio Rivers, and Leon and Salado Creeks; currently, 17 miles of trails are under construction with more planned, Ross said.

In addition to construction project management, Ross’s team works closely with City biologists and naturalists to ensure their work has little impact on San Antonio’s nature preserves.

Grant Ellis, natural resources manager with the Parks and Recreation Department, told the Rivard Report that efforts to preserve and manage the plant and wildlife diversity at Eisenhower Park have been going on since it opened to the public in 1988.

“We work to maintain and manage the land for the diversity of the native plants that it has present,” including native grasses, trees, and wildflowers. “We also have a lot of native wildlife such as armadillo, deer, raccoons, skunks, and as the weather warms up, we will be visited by snakes emerging from slumber.”

Ellis oversees the team that ensures park safety and maintenance once trails are constructed, which includes educating visitors about the importance of preserving and respecting the marked trails.

“We want people to be informed about the native diversity in the area so that they want to help us maintain the natural areas in the city for species like the endangered golden-cheeked warbler,” which reside in Eisenhower Park.

Construction of the entire Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail System is expected to be completed by 2021 with the exception of a small “spur trail” stemming out of Eisenhower Park and taking users slightly North up to Raymond Russel Park, Ross said.

“I have spent the last 12 years walking parks, trying to find connections that will help bring people together,” Ross said. “The best part about my job is being able to come out to the trails anonymously and see families and the elderly and children being able to use the trails and seeing the smiles on their faces. Seeing people enjoy what was created through this program brings me a lot of joy.”

16 thoughts on “Bexar’s Eye: Construction at Eisenhower Park Brings Major Greenway Trail System Closer to Completion

  1. Please, I do hope you have not seen cyclists in Eisenhower! At this time they are still prohibited, and I really hope it stays that way. It is a walking, hiking, jogging park. Cyclists would add a very unhealthy dimension to the trails.

    • Thanks for reading, William. You’re correct. Cycling is currently prohibited at the park; that said, I did see some there during my visits, which is why I mentioned them. We have edited the piece to be more clear about who can access the trails currently.

  2. The second paragraph is very misleading also. It reads as if Eisenhower Park contains several stream corridors which are not in or near the park. Also this report tends to confuse the greenway trails with Eisenhower Park. Yes, the a trail in the greenway trail system will eventually go through the park as part of the connection of the Salado Creek Greenway with the Leon Creek Greenway but this report is misleading. I support the trail system and have walked much of it. I hope the sales tax money for the trails is not diverted to other uses.

  3. Eisenhower is a marvelous park to walk, hike, or jog through on natural trails or paved ones. The one defect is the increasing airplane noise that is disturbing the serene hikes. I believe that the City of San Antonio and Bexar County need to become more aware of the noise pollution that is growing. With the increased building, vegitation reduction, increased auto traffic as well as air traffic, Bexar County is becoming less desirable to live in.

  4. I love our greenway system but am saddened to have read that the Hillview Natural Trail is going to be paved. Hoping maybe that’s not what was meant.

  5. Thanks for your coverage of this! San Antonio still desperately needs more trails and greenspace, hopefully before the entire hillcountry becomes a subdivision

  6. Well, isn’t that nice. The San Antonio Parks Department is taking care of the fifth natural area North of the airport.
    I don’t begrudge work on another natural area but all the while, Medina River Natural Area, the only natural area South of the International Airport is underfunded, ignored, understaffed, with malmaintained with trails that have no actual connection with the rest of the Howard Peak Trail system. The staff is expected to work with some of the oldest equipment among the natural areas, after all, its not like they are North of the airport.
    Trails along the Medina River Greenway are so badly maintained that a mother recently removed her child from her stroller on a section of the trail for fear of “Shaken Baby Syndrome.”
    The city must not care much about these childresn brains, after all, they transferred the Medina River Natural Area education staff to Hardberger. City staff must feel that educating kids North of the International Airport with STEM nature related education is much more important than educating kids from the South.
    Pit toilets, substandard trails that lack bridges across the Medina River and Leon Creek are the norm out at Medina River Natural Area. The landline and internet goes out when it rains. So if you have an emergency at Medina, make sure you have one when it is dry. This problem has existed for years, yet its not fixed. The headquarters (a shack) is smaller than the bathrooms at Hardberger. The excuse for not updating the headquarters is they want it to look rustic and fit in to the natural area. Hmmm, the other natural areas seem to not have that criteria for their facilities. I guess a rustic shack for a headquarters is good enough for the Southside.
    There is presently no permanent supervisor at Medina who can speak for Medina River Natural Area and it shows. Months have past and still no one in charge permanently.
    This amazing natural area has more natural flora and fauna diversity than any of the other natural areas. Yet, invasive dog killing trees are allowed to grow while a newly hired city staffer is unwilling to have legions of willing volunteers work regularly with city staff to remove these dog killing trees over its 511 acres. Historical inattention and neglect continues despite recent strong statements from the Mayor regarding invasives removal from city property. Is there no shame?
    In the face of historically neglect by the San Antonio Parks Department, the head of the Parks Department talked about equity on TPR recently, to the bemused laughter of many who actually know better. Equity? Yet, city staff will use lots of excuses why people have to wait, because time and money can’t actually be spent NOW, and citizens will have to wait til later to get equity. It reminds me of a sign I saw at a restaurant a few years ago, “Free Beer Tomorrow” Yes, always tomorrow. People are expected to wait for equity later. Always later. All the while, another enhancement to a natural area to the North happens, land bridges are constructed and city staff is falling all over each other to see how they can do more for those five natural areas North of the airport. News articles with happy city staff very excited about all the good works they do, up North.
    Please feel free to prove me wrong. Visit the Natural Areas and trails of the North and visit Medina River Natural area and compare. It is a shame.
    At the Parks Department, all of the citizens of San Antonio are equal. Its just that citizens North of the International Airport with their five natural areas are more equal than the rest of the city, with their one lonely underfunded, understaffed, no education coordinator, pit toilets, shack for a headquarters, intermittent phones, crummy trails Medina River Natural Area out in the Southside.
    What a shame! History continues to repeat itself. What a shame!

    • The whole “shaken baby syndrome” thing isnt really helpful to the arguement of impropriety in park investment. If the baby was really injured, it would be the mothers fault for ignoring the bumpy conditions.

      • Evidently, you need to re-read my comments. She removed the child from the stroller from fear of giving the child Baby Shaken Syndrome. It is the city’s fault that she is forced to take such an action. Can you honestly say that a mother would be forced to do so at Hardberger? That, sir, is my argument of impropriety in park investment. Again, it is a shame.

  7. I made some calls and found out they are not paving all of Hillview Trail, only the stretch needed to connect Leon creek and Salado Creek Greenway segments. Thankfully most of the natural trail will be preserved as is.

    • Thank you for investigating this further. I, too, was alarmed to here about paving Hillview. I am very supportive of trail building in SA and am happy to have portions of my taxes go to this shared resource. However, I do wish that more natural trail were available and that not every trail needs to be a concrete mini-road.

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