Kiddie Park To Move to SA Zoo, But Brackenridge Park Advocates Voice Concern

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The historic Kiddie Park on Broadway.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The Kiddie Park is moving from its Broadway Street location to the San Antonio Zoo.

Kiddie Park, a longtime local amusement park with rides dating back to the 1920s, announced Tuesday it would be moving from its Broadway Street location to inside the San Antonio Zoo and handing over the reins to zoo officials.

San Antonio Zoo’s CEO, Tim Morrow, speaks in support of butterfly conservation. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report

San Antonio Zoo CEO Tim Morrow

Zoo CEO Tim Morrow said Kiddie Park has been around for so long, the park is seeing its fourth generation of visitors. The beloved park has struggled with parking availability as Broadway Street becomes more developed, he said.

“[Kiddie Park co-owner Rad Weaver] came to me with a crazy idea, and said, ‘I can’t be the guy that lets Kiddie Park die,’” Morrow said. “He bought it in 2009 and did a great job renovating it.”

Weaver, CEO of McCombs Partners and a member of the University of Texas System Board of Regents, said it made sense to hand off Kiddie Park to the zoo.

“My family, my partners, and our team took great pride in restoring Kiddie Park in 2009 and wanted to ensure that it was here many more years for the families of San Antonio to enjoy,” Weaver said in a Tuesday news release. “San Antonio Zoo and this location is the perfect fit.”

The amusement park will be relocated to a corner of the zoo that allows for a separate entrance, next to the Education Center, so people don’t have to pay zoo admission to access Kiddie Park. But the location that has been selected is giving board members of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy pause.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The San Antonio Zoo.

Joe Calvert, the conservancy’s board president, said he was troubled that the zoo made the decision to move Kiddie Park into its bounds without consulting his group. The conservancy board was established in 2009 to be a voice for those who visit and care about Brackenridge Park, a 343-acre park that houses the zoo, the Witte Museum, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Sunken Garden Theater, and the Brackenridge golf course.

“We have a number of very legitimate concerns about this,” Calvert said. “We feel like there should be a better vetting of this whole thing because once that is done, it is done. If you put a bunch of kiddie rides in that area, bordering on the park, it changes that whole atmosphere of that park from a natural feeling area to an amusement park.”

Calvert said he wants the zoo to pause its construction plans to open the conversation with the conservancy and with members of the public to allow them to see potential consequences of moving Kiddie Park into the zoo. While the zoo does have its own parking and is currently constructing a parking garage, Calvert said based on Kiddie Park’s new location, its visitors will likely use Brackenridge Park parking spaces, filling spots that park visitors could have used. He added that he had seen no studies on potential environmental impact even though the park would be close to the river, and he also was concerned about the foot and vehicular traffic Kiddie Park would bring through the public park area.

A railroad crossing intersects a paved path in Brackenridge Park.

“We’re not trying to keep the Kiddie Park from happening or anything like that,” Calvert said. “We’re not saying no. We’re just saying ‘not so fast.’”

Morrow said the zoo, which is not a member of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy, does not ask for public input on its projects.

“When the zoo does projects, they’re usually kept pretty confidential,” he said. “We’re in a tourism industry town. … We make the announcement when we make the announcement.”

Brackenridge Park entities meet quarterly to update each other, Morrow said.

“Sometimes everyone doesn’t agree on what’s happening, but we have a 105-year history of being a good steward of the property we’re on,” Morrow said. “Our mission is conservation.”

Calvert said it was about being “a good neighbor.” Though the zoo may not legally have to ask the conservancy for input on this project, it would have been in the public’s interest, he said.

“We have a memorandum of understanding with the City that allows us to operate and do what we do in the park,” Calvert said. “That memorandum of understanding also says the City will consult with the conservancy on any matters relating to change within the park … We weren’t consulted. We were informed.”

Morrow said The DoSeum, the Pearl, and other nearby attractions have brought more visitors to the area and that the zoo has been focusing on those increased numbers.

“We want the park to be better and help everybody in our neighborhood achieve that,” he said.

Lynn Osborne Bobbitt, executive director of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy, said the nonprofit’s charge directs them to view the park holistically. Moving the Kiddie Park to the zoo without consulting other park partners flies in the face of that, she said.

“I think it’s incumbent on us to speak up as the conservancy,” she said. “If we see something not in the public’s best interest, we need to bring it to the public’s attention.”

Construction will begin in a few weeks, Morrow said. Kiddie Park will close for a few days to move its rides, but Morrow said zoo officials hope to open the amusement park in its new location before July 4.

17 thoughts on “Kiddie Park To Move to SA Zoo, But Brackenridge Park Advocates Voice Concern

  1. Why is the Kiddie Park move to Brackenridge Park being allowed to happen? Did this go before the HDRC? If so, lots of folks missed it? The park land is being further eroded for an attraction. No matter how beloved Kiddie Park is— relocating it inside the historic park erodes park land and green space. Why was the Brackenridge Park Conservancy not involved in this decion making process? The Conservancy exists to protect the whole of Brackenridge Park. The Kiddie Park move, and the parking garage being called the “Zoo Garage” rather than a “Brackenridge Park Garage” smacks of empire building. This sounds like a corporate takeover—not a community partner.
    What can be done to reverse the decision to develop over more of the park’s green dwindling green space?

    • Did you not read the article? Except for your question regarding the HDRC, all your other questions were answered in the article. The Conservancy has no power.

  2. The zoo has never been a good environmental steward. It’s all about the bottom line.

    The E-N previously reported that the zoo draws and discharges more water than Sea World. At the time, the zoo had no plans to address that. The reporting was that they were putting their money into new attractions. The water treatment facility that the city installed only came about because the zoo was dragging their feet. The city lost patience with the fact that the zoo had no intention of remediating the waste discharge into the San Antonio River.

  3. The issue of parking at Brackenridge Park was raised again. Mention was made that the zoo is currently constructing a parking garage. But sill, based on Kiddie Park’s new location, its visitors will likely use Brackenridge Park parking spaces, filling spots that park visitors could have used.

    Meanwhile (except for the occasional game), thousands of parking spots at nearby Alamo Stadium are vacant every day. A generation ago, the sky-ride was dismantled. It used to have a stop near the Zoo entrance (which is just across the street from the Eagle Miniature Train Ride).

    It is time to reconstruct the sky-ride. Brackenridge Park users could park at Alamo Stadium, pack their picnic lunches, and ride the gondola to the Eagle Train Station. From there, families could ride to the four corners of the park.

    Visitors could ride the sky-ride from the Alamo Stadium parking lot to the Zoo’s front door — or the new Kiddie Park. Other visitors could ride the gondola just to see the beautiful view of our beautiful city.

    Instead of destroying more land to build more parking lots, it is time to use the picturesque forms of mass transit (such as trains and sky-rides) to Brackenridge Park. City Council, Brackenridge Park Conservancy, Zoo Officials, Parks Department; are you listening?

    • What a fantastic idea! The vehicular traffic near the zoo, train, and circular drive is excessive at times. Your gondola idea would allow for a much more pedestrian friendly area without all those emissions. And, it would just be plain fun to ride.

      You should definitely advocate for the return of the gondolas!

    • That sounds like a good idea but remember, Alamo Stadium is owned by San Antonio ISD not the city so the school district’s permission would be required. Right now, SAISD has the right to tow your vehicle if you park there when there aren’t events going on there. Even though a contract could be made between the city and SAISD, the issues of parking when SAISD has events at Alamo Stadium during peak park/zoo visits comes into play.

      • Thanks for the friendly reminder David. In fact I parked at Alamo Stadium last night for an event at Trinity and didn’t think twice about getting towed. Now I will be more aware.

        Maybe I am just too optimistic in envisioning a public private partnership with the entities involved and a generous private donor. It would be such a neat and unique addition to our City.

  4. It is always nice to let the nay-sayers have a voice, as long as they don’t whine. Today’s comments from Calverr and Bobbitt sound more like a whine. I am a conservationist at heart, loving trees, sanctuaries, etc. but I believe that Tim Morrow is correct in his actions here. The kiddie park is a piece of history that needs to be preserved.

    • And I believe Tim Morrow will accomplish that with an extraordinary effort to preserve what our park is about (green space, trees, land, families). I like this idea and believe it can be done with only one option, Success.

  5. Hi Cia,

    Kiddie park is moving inside the zoo. We will operate within our own perimeter just as we have operates the zoo for 105 years at that location. We work very closely with HDRC and other entities. As a 105 year old institution we are focused on respecting the past!

    Chuck,

    I have worked both SeaWorld and San Antonio Zoo’s and the reason I’ve spent half of my life working at these institutions is their passion for the natural world.

    The zoo is absolutely conservation focused. The water we pump is well water that flows through the zoo and into San Antonio River after going through a UV cleaning plant. We supply a majority of the spring fed water to the river. The rest is composed of recycled purple pipe water and runoff. San Antonians and our visits enjoy this world famous amenity with fresh water provided by the zoo.

    Recently we were awarded a water conservation award from Edwards Aquifer and have reduced both Saws water and well water use over the past several years. We use about half of our city allotment these days. We’ve added water collection from AC units and signage to explain this process for guests. We have solar power operating our carousel. Tiny Tots was built to LEED Silver statue. Zoo School was just awarded LEED Platinum status making us one of two preschools in the world to achieve this. We have been eliminating single use plastic in our culinary areas and other areas and recent launched our Straws No Mas campaign to encourage other businesses and citizens to do the same. Our zoo staff volunteers and does an annual river clean up in the park. We have an internal Green Team that focuses on this for the entire zoo.

    All the streets in and around Brackenridge run off into the San Antonio River. There is no sewer system. The park also features the famous low water crossing where cars actually drive through the river water.

    Kiddie Park operating inside the zoo does not change any use of the park other than attracting more people to that part of the park which has been neglected. The citizens of San Antonio voted to give 7 million dollars in updates to Brackenridge Park and they are all happening in the area near the zoo. Sadly many people otherwise would not see it.

    Thanks for your comments. I hope I addressed or answered some of the questions.

  6. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the (rightfully) aborted Brackenridge plan two years ago, wasn’t the Conservancy planning on eliminating the current zoo parking lot and requiring people to come on shuttle buses from the DoSeum (which already has inadequate parking for itself)? NOW the Conservancy is worried about parking?! Calling it a ZOO parking garage seems appropriate. If the Conservancy consultants hadn’t been lambasted by citizens in a series of public meetings they (reluctantly) held, they would have put an outdoor grassy amphitheater in place of the current zoo parking.
    That Conservancy plan seemed designed to remove large numbers of families from Brack. They tried to limit their “public” input to one quiet meeting in a smallish room at the Botanical Center. They were forced to hold a series of large truly public meetings where the public expressed outrage. I wonder if the Conservancy’s objection to the new Kiddie Park location is rooted in the desire to avoid attracting more of those families. The location is NOT adjacent to a quiet bit of nature. It has party pavilions, BBQ pits, etc and on most weekends is full of birthday pinatas. The quieter wooded areas are elsewhere.
    I hate to see Kiddie Park move but I’m glad to see it will survive in San Antonio in some usable form.

  7. We call Brackenridge Park one of the great public parks of this country but it pales in comparison to the greats. The greats not only have lots of green space, they have lots of open, green spaces flanked by attractions (such as museums, botanical gardens, cafes, bike shops, etc). Right now, there really aren’t any open green spaces but instead, lots of open, brown, dirt spaces (grow some grass people would like to picnic on, instead of needing a picnic bench).

    Give people a reason to have to walk from one side of the park to the other. I would love for Kiddie Park to be put in another corner of Brackenridge Park, away from the zoo. Have an Eagle Train station near that Kiddie Park location. The zoo can sell a package that includes admission to the zoo and Kiddie Park. Have another package that throws in a two-way ride on the train to get between the zoo and Kiddie Park. Build a large pond the size of Woodlawn lake in a different corner that looks like an extension of the river (but actually isn’t to keep water separate) and have paddle boat rentals. I could go on and on and it will cost money to buy out some neighbors to get the land to do some of this but there is so much potential!

    Make Brackenridge a park by design not a park because we blocked off some land.

  8. Ride em cowboy…let the games begin. I love the idea.. reality is all the “improvements” coming to Brack are probably a very long time away. The way our city moves on projects is a joke, so long live kiddie park . God forbid we actually show any improvements in our lifetime. It’s not like they are just going to throw down some dirt and plop the rides and badi Bing bada boom….or are they…..hmmm. the story continues.

  9. Jackie – I’m not sure exactly where the Kiddie Park will be located on the Zoo grounds. Could you post a map showing the location?

  10. I am concerned about the ultimate fate of all of the beautiful Elm Trees that exist at the present Kiddie Park location on Broadway. Who will own the property after Kiddie Park moves and will they retain the Elms? Can anyone provide answers to these questions?

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