Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Confluence Park, the learning and nature center slated for completion early next year at the convergence of the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek on the Mission Reach, has received a $750,000 boost to fund its multipurpose classroom.
The $13 million park, located at 310 W. Mitchell St. on the city’s Southside, aims to celebrate the ecology of the region, promote the preservation of waterways, and highlight sustainable building and land-use practices. Construction began in May 2016.
Local philanthropist Estela Avery, who served as a San Antonio River Foundation board member and then as the organization’s executive director from 2010-2017, donated the funds for the education center that aims to teach visitors about sustainability and conservation. Avery and her husband, jewelry designer James Avery, contributed $1 million to the River Foundation’s education programs at Confluence Park in 2015.
“Through education and outreach, we know that we can inspire stewardship of our natural resources,” stated River Foundation Executive Director Robert Amerman. “In instilling a greater sense of ownership in children, citizens, and visitors, we can achieve better outcomes in the water quality and the ecological health along the length of our river.”
The Estela Avery Education Center will include modular classroom furniture, laboratory supplies, and 20 laptop computers donated by Toyota Motor North America. In addition, the multi-purpose educational center will have a green roof that will provide thermal mass for passive heating and cooling.
In an effort to promote equal access to the park for all students, the River Foundation will be able to offer the facility free of charge – including transportation for schools – through a separate $1 million education endowment.
“It’s not only for the immediate area, you’ve got the potential for students in other counties to come and experience the park,” Avery stated. “You will be able to see how nature is blending together indoors and outdoors. I can hardly wait for it to open and hear the excitement in kids’ voices as they explore, learn, and really let their curiosity show.”
The innovative outdoor classroom will become the hub of operations for the River Authority’s environmental education programs, which have reached more than 50,000 students since 2013.
The park’s design includes solar power and rainwater harvesting, and will connect to the hike and bike trails along the Mission Reach. Designed by Lake Flato Architects, Matsys Design, and Rialto Studio, the park includes a sculptural pavilion, 17 rescue trees, and a site-wide water catchment system. The pavilion’s geometric design will help collect rain water and feed it into an underground water tank, a reservoir that will become the park’s main source of water.
“As a destination for all ages and interest groups, Confluence Park provides a unique opportunity to interpret the natural wonders of San Antonio River Watershed,” said Matthew Driffill, recreation superintendent for San Antonio River Authority. “This park is the place that you will want to visit when it rains.”
The park’s landscape will have five distinct ecotypes found in the South Texas region: grassland, Trans Pecos/Chihuahuan Desert, live oak savannah, and the San Antonio River. The ecotypes aim to attract pollinators such as Monarch butterflies and allow for several class tours to take place at the same time.
“Confluence Park has been many years in the making and we worked through multiple concepts, site plans, pavilion designs, and landscape configurations before settling on the final plans,” stated Confluence Park Project Manager Stuart Allen. “Watching the park take shape has been rewarding beyond measure and we’re thrilled with the results. What started as a fanciful, abstract concept is taking shape before our eyes. Soon, Confluence Park will be filled with students learning about the ecology and water dynamics of our region.”
The grand unveiling of Confluence Park, which will be free and open to the public, will take place at the site on Jan. 17 at 10:30 a.m. The Majestic Theatre will host a benefit concert headlined by Pink Martini at 7 p.m. that night to celebrate the park’s opening. The fundraiser will benefit the San Antonio River Foundation and Las Casas Foundation.
For tickets, click here.