Scott Ball / Rivard Report
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.