The New Elmendorf Lake Park: ‘A Hidden Gem on the Westside’

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Visitors enjoying the serenity and beauty of the park and lake.

Courtesy / Ramon Hernandez

Visitors enjoy the serenity and beauty of the park and lake.

Although I always knew Elmendorf Lake Park existed, I was unfamiliar with its history and hidden beauty. Like countless other San Antonians, I had driven by the park numerous times, but had never taken the time to visit it.

After taking a tour of Elmendorf , located at 3700 W. Commerce St., I wrote in 2014 that the park is “a hidden gem on the Westside.” Others, including two local politicians, have reached the same conclusion.

Since my original visit, restoration efforts managed by the San Antonio River Authority to the tune of $14 million, approved by voters through the 2012 bond and jointly funded by the City and the County, have almost been completed.

I attended the opening ceremony in late January: it was a sunny Saturday morning and hundreds of people flocked to the newly restored park to enjoy amenities such as bike trails, splash pads, seating areas, picnic tables, and more.

New children’s playground.

Courtesy / Ramon Hernandez

The new children’s playground includes a jungle gym, splash pad, and other amenities.

Many credit community activist and former River Authority board member Roberto Rodriguez with having the foresight and fortitude to advocate for upgrades to Elmendorf Lake Park, and the Westside Creeks Restoration Oversight Committee for transforming it into the beautiful site it is today. Its co-chairs, Olga Lizcano and Robert Ramirez, saw through their decade-long vision of creating a park in which families living on the Westside could enjoy quality time together, play, and feel safe.

Their hard work paid off as Elmendorf now rivals any park in the city. The grounds have been transformed to include a vast lake with a bird sanctuary that allows for ducks swimming by or people kayaking in the water.

As I walked through the park on that Saturday morning, a family that had been coming to the park for years was unpacking a picnic on one of the new picnic tables – they were thrilled with the park’s transformation.

Children climbed about the new playground and ran through the water jets in the splash pad as bikers and walkers shared the trails. The park’s fields lend themselves to anyone wishing to play softball, football, or soccer. Live music filled the area, and the opening ceremony ended with an impressive firework display.

Elmendorf’s main entrance is now a colorful sight with mosaic tile covering the concrete seating areas, and avid fishers can now utilize the fishing pier as the lake has been repopulated with fish.

Colorful mosaic tile benches are found at the entrance to the park.

Courtesy / Ramon Hernandez

Colorful mosaic tile benches are found at the entrance to the park.

I have made subsequent visits to Elmendorf, including a couple of evening visits. The park looks spectacular at night thanks to ample lighting that made me feel safe walking through it.

During one evening visit, there were more than 100 parents and children spending quality time together in the park. It was beautiful to hear the children laugh as they ran about the playground. Whoever designed the seating for parents to be in close proximity to their children’s amenities had great foresight.

It also was encouraging to see families enjoying the new amenities, such as bike trails, picnic areas with covered shelter, exercise stations, pedestrian bridges, improved lighting, lake fountains that illuminate different colors at night, and a floating pier. The park’s improvements are likely to be enjoyed by the students at Our Lady of the Lake University.

Protection of the environment is evident in many of these improvements. Among them are rain gardens that will reduce the speed of flash flooding and benefit plants and animals by removing toxins, pollutants, and bioswales. There also are landscape elements that are designed to concentrate or remove salt and impurities from surface runoff water. Additionally, water will be recirculated through a wetland adding to the movement of the lake’s water.

The new park includes expanded parking in a pervious lot that, according to River Authority engineer Jeff Taylor, “allows water to percolate into the ground instead of flowing directly into the lake. It will trap sediments and acts as a filter.”

The only amenity missing from Elmendorf Lake Park at this time is a new swimming poolAs part of the park’s restoration work, the existing pool was demolished. Sufficient funds were lacking from the previous bond to allow for a new swimming pool to be built, but plans are in place to build a competitive-size pool, bringing the possibility of swim meets for all residents.

According to Ramirez, funds to pay for the new swimming pool would be allocated from the 2017 Municipal Bond election scheduled for May 6. If voters approve the bond, the pool could be completed by 2019 at a cost of $2 million.

If you haven’t visited Elmendorf Lake Park yet, I suggest that you do. How long has it been since you’ve planned a picnic with your family or friends? How long has it been since you made time for yourself, or enjoyed reading a book on a park bench with the view of a lake in the background? You can do these things and more at Elmendorf Lake Park, a family-oriented and safe environment.

Family sitting on the banks of Elmendorf Lake with Our Lady of the Lake University in the background.

Courtesy / Ramon Hernandez

A family sits on the banks of Elmendorf Lake with Our Lady of the Lake University in the background.


4 thoughts on “The New Elmendorf Lake Park: ‘A Hidden Gem on the Westside’

  1. Shhhhh!! You’re not supposed to tell anyone. 🙂 It really is a gem, though. Glad to live 8 minutes away! 🙂

  2. Please do not promote families to go. In the mid 1980’s students from EISD JFK High School did TCEQ samplings of area creeks and lakes. The findings were disturbing related to fecal matter (later found to be sewer). More recent a few years ago when the San Antonio River Authority Creek Restoration Committee came to being I came across the $50K dollar requested SARA Pape Dawson Engineering Environmental study. The recommendations were pretty A, B and C format. A) Dredge the lake B) place aerators C) continue monitoring. The committee was unaware of the study when I referred to its findings and fecal matter spikes. Two meetings later the concerned Architect that found and read the study informed me that he was going to request and use materials in public contact areas like tables and chairs to withstand city power washing after heavy rainfalls. The lake is now aerated with inlake water sprayers or more specifically in my opinion Crap Shooters. Anyone who has had a fishbowl knows that at some time regardless how careful the bottom has to be cleaned now imagine a lake that is fed by a creek that has sewer manhole inlets along its way that spill over and end up in the creek. Years back during the High School testing SAWS said that there was a sewer line break they could not at that time detect its location. By the way my concerns accidently heard by TCEQ compelled SARA and SAWS to call me and in one case send me aerial photos of where missing sewer manhole covers along or at the base of creeks now drainages were located I informed tham that I did not have such lids at home for them to use. Self locking lids are now the trend but only time will tell if households will have backup sewer water after rainfalls go into their homes. My findings for reason for overflows triggered TCEQ.

    • Eiginio Rodriguez,
      When I first moved here a few months ago, I was told by several people that the story of the island in the middle of the lake with the hundreds of birds was that a lady appeared or died in this island and the birds protect her. I saw 2 men kneeing and praying.
      What is the story Sir
      Thank you

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