H-E-B gave the San Antonio River Foundation (SARF) $1 million in grant money Tuesday for the construction of Confluence Park, which is slated for completion in December.
The $12 million, three-acre park located at the confluence of San Pedro Creek and the San Antonio River is meant to serve as a learning destination to teach visitors about sustainability and conservation. Construction began last summer.
"The H-E-B money will go towards construction," Confluence Park Director Frates Seeligson told the Rivard Report Tuesday. "We have a $1 million education endowment completed. The County has invested $1 million in honor of Sally Buchanan, who worked tirelessly with the River Authority. The city has invested $1.75 million, and we have private money. It's a collaboration between all entities."
Seeligson said H-E-B's gift brings the money raised for the park to more than $10 million.
The design of the park will highlight sustainable building and land-use practices, including solar power and rainwater harvesting. The Southside park celebrates the ecology of the region, promotes the preservation of waterways, and demonstrates the value of natural resources.
“Our natural resources are an invaluable commodity to our community, our city, and our state," said H-E-B President and Chief Operating Officer Craig Boyan. "The concept behind Confluence Park brings to life sustainable practices for the benefit and enjoyment of all those who visit the park. H-E-B is proud to contribute to the development of Confluence Park and looks forward to being involved in future educational and stewardship opportunities that this green space will present.”
What was once an empty lot near Mission Concepción will become an interactive learning facility for people of all ages. Through different instructional elements woven through every aspect of the facility, local citizens and visitors will be encouraged to become more involved with the river. The park also will offer connections to hiking and biking trails along the Mission Reach.
“It’s very unique architecturally in its function," Seeligson said. "We have petal designs that form a big pavilion at the center of the park, all designed for low-impact development and rainwater harvesting. The artist behind it looked to nature and flora – flowers that bring water in, as opposed to shedding water out."
The park is being designed by Lake|Flato Architects, Matsys Design, and Rialto Studio. The onsite classroom, adjacent to the pavilion, will include thermal heating and cooling, while solar panels will generate all the power for the park, Seeligson said.
"There will be an interpretive area that shows how much power is being drawn to the park and how much is given back through renewable energy," Seeligson added. "The whole design is for it to be an education center and have an area where people can come, not so much to throw a frisbee, but to exercise their mind, learn about water ecology and different ecotypes in the state of Texas."
The $1 million educational endowment will make it possible for the San Antonio River Foundation, the nonprofit that supports the publicly funded San Antonio River Authority (SARA), to expand its environmental education offerings and offer a unique experience outside of the classroom. The funds will also provide necessary transportation for public schools in the area so students can participate in the programs.
"Kids will work on environmental studies, do field work on the river, and come back to the lab and do lab work onsite," Seeligson said. "It’s designed to hold 25-30 kids and an instructor. All the equipment will be available on site, so educators don’t have to bring stuff and all the local schools in the neighbouring counties [can participate]. We will have an online curriculum as well, talking about what the park is doing."
Seeligson hopes that Confluence Park will become a "satellite campus" in an area that has often been overlooked in terms of educational outreach.
"There are beautiful institutions along the Broadway corridor, but there is nothing south of downtown," Steeligson said. "It will be a game-changer for the whole city."