San Antonio's San Pedro Springs Park, one of the oldest parks in America, sits on land the Spanish government reserved for public use in the 18th century and was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Today community members use the park as a place to gather, swim, and play tennis. Soon the park will be a place to walk and jog as well.
The 2012-2017 bond program will allot $1.8 million for the construction of a trail around San Pedro Springs Park that will be illuminated at night by LED lights. Councilmember Roberto Treviño (D1) said monuments will sit along the trail to provide visitors with the park's history.
"It seems like a simple addition but it will play a big role in getting people active and healthy and that’s really what a park is about – getting people outside," Treviño said.
Construction on the trail started in May and is set to be completed by the end of this year.
Treviño said the LED lighting to be installed is a new kind of white light that provides added contrast to create better color definition.
San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department Assistant Director Nikki Ramos said San Antonians face major health problems related to obesity.
"If we can focus on what we can provide in terms of making physical activity easy and accessible then we can help our residents to address those challenges," she said. "It is going to give you a perfect opportunity to get out and be active in a beautiful environment."
Ramos said providing people a space to let loose and connect with friends and family is a key element for generating neighborhood morale.
"We really focus on connecting people to their neighbors," she said. "This gives another aspect for people to connect to the parks, their family, their neighbors, their residents."
State Rep. and former District 1 City Council member Diego Bernal said the upkeep of the San Pedro Springs Park was a hot issue when he was running for his council seat in 2011. He said people wanted a place that would attract and retain residents.
"There is something to be said about a huge beautiful green space in the middle of a big city and that is what this is," he said.
Bernal said this update will turn the park into something that people from outside of the inner city will want to visit.
The park, shaded by a canopy of sprawling tree branches, is an oasis that sits on the outskirts of San Antonio's bustling downtown.
The park's creek has served as a main vein of water supply and use over the years; hydrating Spanish explorers in the 1700s, Civil War prisoners in the 1860s, and neighboring residents in the early 1900s.
In the mid 1800s, J.J. Duerler established five fish ponds, a speakers' stand, an exhibition building with a ballroom and bar, a racetrack, and a zoo, all within park grounds. After Duerler's death, park conditions deteriorated, and Parks Commissioner Ray Lambert stepped in to rejuvenate the park in the early 1900s. He demolished crumbling structures, moved the zoo to Brackenridge Park, converted the park's lake into a swimming pool, and constructed tennis courts, a library, and a community theater.
Bernal concluded that the park represents something that every representative from an inner city believes and that is, "Why can't we have nice things too?"
The San Pedro Springs Park swimming pool will open to the public next weekend. The pool hours are 1-8 p.m. from Friday-Sunday and 2-8 p.m. from Tuesday-Thursday. A full list of outdoor swimming pools in San Antonio can be found here.
*Featured/top image: Key figures in the park's project turned dirt as a groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Joan Vinson.