Decision to Move Kiddie Park to Brackenridge Needs Public Input

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The San Antonio River flows through Brackenridge Park, which has been called one of the most significant archeological site in Texas.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The San Antonio River flows through Brackenridge Park, which has been called one of the most significant archeological sites in Texas.

The recently announced plan to move Kiddie Park into the footprint of the San Antonio Zoo was not shared with the Brackenridge Park Conservancy until April 1, despite ample opportunities to do so. At that time, zoo CEO Tim Morrow, zoo Board Chairman Frank Ruttenberg, and Kiddie Park owner Rad Weaver presented the plan to the Brackenridge Park Conservancy’s executive committee as a done deal.

We support the effort to save the iconic Kiddie Park. However, there must be a public, transparent, and accountable process for evaluating the impact on Brackenridge Park.

The Brackenridge Park Conservancy’s management agreement with the City of San Antonio requires that the conservancy be consulted on all activity affecting Brackenridge Park. However, this did not occur until well after a year of discussions between Kiddie Park owners and zoo management had already taken place and not until zoo management had determined a final plan of action. Morrow told the Rivard Report on Tuesday that the zoo “is not a member of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy” and “does not ask for public input on its projects.”

The zoo is a nonprofit organization located within the boundaries of Brackenridge Park, and regardless of its lease agreement, the zoo does not have a license to disregard public process and erode public green space. 

The Zoo projects at least 125,000 additional visitors per year to Kiddie Park. Many of the limited parking spaces in the Lambert Beach/Joske Pavilion area, which is adjacent to the proposed Kiddie Park site, will be utilized by Kiddie Park visitors. This will adversely affect park picnickers, visitors, and families who enjoy the tranquility and serenity of Brackenridge Park on a regular basis. No traffic, environmental, or archeological studies have been done. In the rush to complete this private deal, there has been no due diligence or thoughtful analysis of the effect on public green space.

The Brackenridge Park Conservancy, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, has worked diligently and closely with the City of San Antonio and stakeholders to develop and fund a plan that will sustain Brackenridge Park well into the future. The two-year public process surrounding the development of the Brackenridge Park Master Plan, adopted by City Council in 2017, showed us how important Brackenridge Park is to the community and how critical public input is. We listened, and we learned.

After the adoption of the Master Plan, the Brackenridge Park Conservancy initiated the next step – the development of a Cultural Landscape Report. It was clear that a comprehensive collection of historic and cultural information must be collected to better understand the traditions and legacy left by the users of Brackenridge Park over the years, as well as the condition of the natural environment including the water quality and vegetation. The San Antonio River Authority is partnering with us on this effort, and together, we have hired the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to make an ecological assessment of Brackenridge Park.

The year-long process will be completed in September of this year, just a few short months away. This report will become a tool that will allow recommendations for future improvements to be thoughtfully made.

Any plan that would significantly alter the use and complexion of Brackenridge Park should be postponed until this report has been completed and publicly reviewed.

The time for locating attractions and activities wherever individual entities think best is over. There must be a consolidated effort to do what is best for Brackenridge Park and the San Antonio community as a whole.

The Brackenridge Park Conservancy is determined to protect our beloved Brackenridge Park from encroachment by private interests. We are carrying out our mission to be a steward of and an advocate for Brackenridge Park for all residents of San Antonio – the only organization solely dedicated to doing so.

The zoo has announced plans for a $200 million dollar expansion. In addition to the proposed relocation of Kiddie Park, what does that mean for Brackenridge Park, its green space, and the people who enjoy it?

The Conservancy is requesting that the zoo delay the proposed move of Kiddie Park until all parties can meet to discuss Brackenridge Park holistically and, in light of the Master Plan, to determine the best location for Kiddie Park and to understand the interface Kiddie Park will have with Brackenridge Park so that the public enjoyment of the green space and the San Antonio River will not be altered or diminished.

Brackenridge Park is the crown jewel of San Antonio’s green spaces and a vital urban space. Any plan that would significantly alter the disposition of Brackenridge Park should be considered with at least as much care, transparency, and public input as the master plan. 

21 thoughts on “Decision to Move Kiddie Park to Brackenridge Needs Public Input

  1. I appreciate your piece. I was surprised when I heard the announcement of this arrangement. This development seems out of line with the mission of the San Antonio Zoo. I actually looked up the mission, “Through its passion and expertise in animal care, conservation, and education, the zoo’s mission is to inspire its community to love, engage with, act for and protect animals and the places they live. ” I hope the Conservatory will continue to ask questions and push back at this arrangement.

  2. Bureaucrats just love studies. More money thrown away at nonsense.
    The Kiddie Park has been a San Antonio icon for 94 years. What possible harm could a small children’s amusement park cause?
    The combination of the Kiddie Park and Zoo will be a good thing!

  3. Oh give me a break. Just move the darn thing, there will be no harm. Seriously, you guys are just wanting to make noise for the sake of making noise.

  4. Lets not overthink this. Look at whats happening with the Alamo, too much input and it jams up the process. An executive decision was made to address a situation that needed addressing in a manner and speed not appropriate for committees and public hearings. Everybody wants to stand their ground and only their way is the right way. Let Kiddie Park live on without squabbles and people being upset that their feelings were hurt. Kiddie Park is more important than politics and personal pride. Let it go and save your efforts for something of greater magnitude.

  5. Typical San Antonio. These fools are making a big deal about moving a kiddie amusement park? Really? Take the area where the kiddie park is now and turn it into something. Then please shut up. By the way. I’ve lived here all my life and I am tired of seeing complaining and whining about every single issue from these bureaucrats. You people need to get a life, seriously!!!!! You zoo folks move ahead, keep truck’in.

  6. Honestly I am surprised at the tenor of the comments so far. Between the zoo, the golf course, driving range, the Witte, Sunken Gardens and the train, a HUGE portion of land in Brackenridge Park is already fee-for-use area. Imagine if all that land was just…. park. I can’t believe that this plan has even a whiff of momentum and I’m surprised that the working class people in SA would put up with private interests capitalizing off public land. It’s YOUR public park. You shouldn’t have to pay to access a majority of it.

    • Totally agree. One only needs to look at places like Central Park or Hemisfair after the fair to see how easy it is for public land to be divided up, rented out or sold off. The golf driving range is a good example: those areas (now about 9 acres) were the historic Polo Fields, used by the US Calvary for training, and a prehistoric flood terrace used by native people for perhaps 15,000 years before that. It was a great flat lawn on the edge of the river, used for all sorts of recreation (soccer, frisbee, kite flying, horseback riding, lacrosse) and gatherings. It is now a landscape that resembles a glaciated drumlin field with one use, and a lot of fertilizer and fungicide running off into the river. This could have been a fine addition to the existing range at San Pedro in the Olmos Basin. No plan meant it went through without much discussion. That is just one small example. We should never make quick decisions that will have an impact for 50 or 60 years.

  7. I am surprised at the tenor of the comments so far. Between the zoo, the golf course, driving range, the Witte, Sunken Gardens and the train, a HUGE portion of land in Brackenridge Park is already fee-for-use area. Imagine if all that land was just…. park. I can’t believe that this plan has even a whiff of momentum and I’m surprised that the working class people in SA would put up with private interests capitalizing off public land. It’s YOUR public park. You shouldn’t have to pay to access a majority of it.

  8. Holy smokes, everybody is a stakeholder, everywhere. Wait, nobody’s talked to ME about it. What about my view as I drive by?! It’ll be altered, where’s the analysis of that impact! I HAVE RIGHTS!!!! We need to delay four months and then fight about it for two-five years and then die off and then a new group with a new thought and a new study can study it, again. It’s a war of attrition, everywhere.

  9. I have a concerns regarding the current ” natural wilderness ” state of Brackenridge Park. I thought the area was to remain ” wilderness & natural” as stated in Gearge Brackenridge’s will. Hopefully we won’t lose this natural state after the “landscape consultants “, turn their reccomendations in.” Some things are Better left alone “, as my friend Maury Maverick Jr. told me years ago , regarding his beloved park before he passed.

  10. San Antonio has always been short of park space. Brackenridge Park is a welcoming area for so many families who do not have the luxury of a beautiful back yard and deck to enjoy when they want to walk outside, sit, picnic, entertain family and friends. The Park provides that free and open space. It has always given me great pleasure to drive by the park early on an Easter morning to see fires already burning in the provided grills, children getting ready to hunt for eggs, and everyone having a glorious time outside, welcoming the sun, having fun with their extended families and friends. The river along Lambert Beach, where I remember swimming as a child, and the open curving space next to the pavilions. behind the new and improved Witte:
    what a treasure to be protected. I am sure the wealthy owners of Kiddie Park can store the boats, cars, and Ferris wheel until such time as they can secure a more appropriate place for their commercial venture. I know the Zoo would reap a financial benefit from having Kiddie Park in its area, but it just doesn’t belong there. The Park is free for all to enjoy and it is my hope that it will remain so for all San Antonians in the future.

  11. The quickness of this transaction and last minute informing of the Park Conservancy reeks of back door dealings. I get that having Kiddie Park near the Zoo is a logical idea, but why not put it near the new planned high rise parking garage near the old site of the Sunshine Cottage? Then the beautiful green space of the park is preserved, there will be plenty of parking spaces available without filling up the few spots near Joske Pavillion and the ballpark fields, and both Kiddie Park and the Zoo benefit by having it close by.
    This issue needs more public discussion for sure!

    • If this is a done deal, this was exactly where I thought would be a good utilization of space. It’s close to the zoo, it’s close but IN the Park and convenient parking. And since there is a fee to ride the rides, the idea that the park is free for all is a non-issue.
      What does bother me is the blatant disregard of the Breckinridge Park Conservancy and lack of consideration. I guess the mindset was “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission”…am I right or am I right…just saying.

  12. It’s a sad day, this will happen. For the past 47 years, my family has a tradition of celebrating their 5th year birthdays at its current location. My children and grandchildren have all done this and now our last granddaughter, 3 yrs old, won’t be able to participate in the tradition. All for the sake of new development. The City needs to be removed from being a real estate investor.

  13. I have always thought that the park has, over the years, been cut up and taken out of the public “free use” hands at public expense. Here’s another example.
    Let’s take this opportunity to put the whole park together from Hildebrand to the last mission and have the boats go the whole length under city control.

  14. Seems like the zoo is leaning toward becoming Sea World with fur. Save the Kiddie Park for sure but not at the expense of taking land that should be held in reserve for future expansion of animal habitats to further the zoo’s mission. As for moving the Kiddie Park to the green space by the new parking garage, that space is supposedly also designated to become an expanded animal habitat. Again, supporting the zoo’s mission. And parking IS an issue. Walking through Brack near the Joske pavilion on a Saturday or Sunday, there’s not enough parking there now for folks coming to the softball fields or having picnics or walking or making other use of the park. So add 40 more cars for the Kiddie Park? If the KP does have to go near the zoo, how about the utility yard on the Hildebrand side? Half of that space can be KP, half KP designated parking. Utility yard moved to space over by employee parking. Lots of alternate solutions, agree that more people need to be thinking about this to find the optimum solution.

  15. Just purchase the property next door and knock down that crappy abandoned motel and that will solve your problem with parking. Kiddie Park should just stay put.

  16. It’s funny that so many people who took time out of their day to come and say “who cares, let it happen, why must we belabor discussion on every single change in the city, etc…” This highlights a real problem here in San Antonio, which is apathy. People would rather ignore a situation than discuss it, even if it affects them. As a city, we’ve struggled with trying to keep Brackenridge Park as natural as possible…it’s not an amusement park, people…and half of it is already taken up by a golf course. As a citizen and someone who uses the park (the parts that are publicly available), I’d like more info on the implications to the Park. I went to Kiddie Park as a kid and I’d rather it didn’t disappear either, but I’d like to hear why Brack is the best choice for it’s relocation. There are lots of redevelopments happening within the city, why shouldn’t one of those be considered?

  17. I was surprised that the Kiddie Park wasn’t somehow merged with the Doseum when it was built. Seemed like the perfect combination of attractions.

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