Rocío Guenther / Rivard Report
The Brackenridge Park Master Plan will move forward with key strategies supported by the San Antonio community, such as restoring natural, historical, and cultural features of the park and increasing visibility and connectivity.
The San Antonio Parks and Recreation department gathered feedback at public input meetings during the summer and through event-based master planning activities in October and November, the latter proving particularly effective in informing the revised plan.
A total of 861 residents from a reported 61 zip codes attended the events. Of those, 246 provided feedback through completed surveys, according to Xavier Urrutia, the City’s Parks and Recreation director. These numbers represent the value of Brackenridge as a citywide park, he added.
Urrutia told City Council on Wednesday that several master plan strategies were scrapped due to dissent from the community, including reduced parking to build a grand lawn, road closures at the park, and a “people mover” that would transport people to and from the park.
Those elements have been removed from the plan, Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Homer Garcia told the Rivard Report. “Next, Rialto Studio will be working to update the plan as we work toward finalizing the document.”
The revised Brackenridge Park Master Plan will be presented to City Council for adoption in February 2017.
“Brackenridge Park is an important community asset – it’s a jewel that we have,” Mayor Ivy Taylor said. “So many folks have fond memories [of] family time there at the park. It certainly makes sense for us to look at how we can improve and preserve parks for future generations to come.”
Over the summer, the original Brackenridge Park Master Plan proved controversial for many members of the community, as only two public meetings were originally scheduled. Former Councilwoman Maria Berriozábal reached out to Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) as a constituent and introduced the idea that park users felt they were being “excluded” from the planning process. After six additional public input meetings, the idea for event-based master planning was introduced.
According to Treviño, who is chair of the Neighborhoods and Livability Committee, the event-based master planning activities in the fall rebuilt trust with members of the community and made them feel involved in the planning process.
The events at the park, which included a cultural soiree, movies at the Sunken Garden Theater, a nature bike tour, archaeology exploration for kids, and a coffee and painting class, aimed to showcase what the park offers today and help park-goers visualize elements in the master plan.
“We created something very new and innovative, which garnered even more input,” Treviño said. “It’s exciting to see how doing it that way made the community feel good about some of the planning.”
Councilman Alan Warrick (D2), Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5), and others said they hope to see successful event-based master planning activities like those at Brackenridge at other citywide parks, especially those that will receive funds in the 2017 Bond.
“The turnout for the (event-based master planning activities) was larger and more diverse … than the typical 6 o’clock meeting at a community center,” Warrick said. “How are we going to engage people in a similar manner on parks throughout the city?”
City Manager Sheryl Sculley said that $21.5 million in bond money is designated for the Brackenridge area – $7.5 million of that is for the park itself.
“We consider this a citywide project, because people come from all over the community to use the historic Brackenridge Park,” Sculley said.
The rest of the funds will go to the construction of a parking garage that will be shared by visitors to the San Antonio Zoo, the Witte Museum, and the park.
“The funding that is recommended in the 2017 bond program [for Brackenridge] supports those strategies that the public has supported in this master planning process,” Urrutia said.
Councilman Cris Medina (D7) said that the Sunken Garden Theater at Brackenridge Park is an important asset that deserves more attention so that patrons can better enjoy concerts and other activities there. Although no City funding is identified for renovations at the Sunken Garden Theater, Urrutia said that the master plan does recognize it as an “under-utilized asset.”
“There are some viable groups who could operate the facility and bring activity back at the theater,” he said, “but we need to explore this.”
Urrutia agreed with several Council members that getting community feedback doesn’t always have to be in an organized community setting.
“For those projects that have a citywide impact, we need to go the extra mile and engage design consultants to see how we can incorporate similar events,” he said. “That’s something we’ll definitely be looking at, especially with the bond.”