National Trust for Public Lands Praises San Antonio's Park Development

posted by Jim Forsyth - 

The National Trust for Public Lands gives San Antonio high marks for the growth of parks and green space, especially the expanded Riverwalk, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

In its report, the Trust cites not only the city's aggressive expansion of parkland, including the innovative 'pocket parks' being expanded downtown, but cites the city's 11 dog parks, 282 miles of walking and biking trails, 261 playgrounds, and 102 community gardens.

But is what the City and the County have done with expanding the Riverwalk that caught the attention of Trust analyst Ali Hiple.

"Often because of the way the histories of the cities developed, rivers were centers for trade and industry and they were as a result dirty or smelly," she said.  "You wouldn't necessarily be bringing people down to the river."

She cited the Mission and Museum Reaches of the San Antonio River of examples of expanding public lands and public access to parks beyond just the commercial downtown section.

"All of the multiple ways that you can use that are also an example of a great park, because that is a place where absolutely everyone can find something to do, something to enjoy."

The expansion of San Antonio's parks system is a relatively new development, sparked largely by rankings in the 1990s and 2000s rating San Antonio as among the most obese cities in the country.

In addition to the growth of the parks, the Trust also cited in its report the wide ranging partnerships that exist to promote the city's parks.

"Volunteers in San Antonio gave 79,891 hours of their time to the city parks and recreation department over the past year," The report said.  "Additionally, conservancies support individual parks such as the Brackenridge and Hemisfair parks."

The report cited the current effort to upgrade Hemisfair, to develop Hardberger Park through the newly approved 'land bridge' and to expand parks to currently underserved areas of the community.

She says the Riverwalk and its expansion are 'national models' for how ecology and urban planning combine to create spaces which are useful for everybody.

"That's another reason why the Riverwalk is so great, because it has brought people to those areas, while being maintained well."

The report says San Antonio has 30,000 acres of parks in or adjacent to its city limits, including sprawling attractions like Friedrich Wilderness Park and Government Canyon State Recreation Areas.

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