For generations, Brackenridge Park has been a San Antonio staple for families enjoying time outdoors, but those weekend outings could look a lot different if a plan to upgrade the green space, altering how it's used, makes it to City Council and is approved.
The City of San Antonio spent $250,000 to dream up big changes to the park that's just north of the new, bustling Pearl complex along a congested Broadway. The proposed update to the master plan, which hasn't seen new ideas since 1979 and has an estimated cost of $150 million, comes as City Council prepares the massive $850 million May 2017 municipal bond for voters.
"We’re not working with a blank space … The fact is, Brackenridge Park is an old park, a large park, it’s in the heart of the city and there’s a lot of people that identify with that park and have a lot of ties to that park," Parks and Rec acting assistant director Homer Garcia said at a July 7 community meeting. "At the end of the day, the park use will not change."
The Parks and Recreation Department promises to improve water quality in the San Antonio River and to make the park more pedestrian friendly, along with trying to curb invasive plant species and better interpreting historic buildings and Spanish water works. The department also wants to see the Sunken Garden renovated and the San Antonio River and Catalpa-Pershing channels back in more natural states.
But the most dramatic changes center around creating a grand entrance, building parking garages and closing streets throughout Brackenridge.
The grand entrance would be near the San Antonio Zoo, and the current parking lot there would turn into a "grand lawn." To make up for the loss in parking, the City wants to build parking garages.
Nothing's finalized, the plan hasn't even been brought to City Council nor does it have a funding source. But the current plan does calls for a parking garage on private property northeast of the park, near the University of Incarnate Word and another by the Doseum. The San Antonio Zoo and San Antonio Independent School District are also planning a separate 600-space garage on district land near Tuleta and Alamo Stadium.
A circular tram would be used to ferry people throughout the park.
During a series of public meetings, the idea of closing park roads, creating a single park entrance, turning current parking spots into green spaces and building parking garages did not sit well with people for a variety of reasons.
Some opponents said centralized parking would force working class families away from the park and others complained about road closures adversely effecting the elderly.
At a July 7 meeting at Hardberger Park, Micah Moore, who says she visits the park every day, criticized the proposal, saying it would drive visitors away. However, she didn't come without suggestions for the Parks and Recreation Department.
"Take away the golf course at Brackenridge, [the] lease expires next year," Moore said. "Make grand lawn over the golf course."
Currently, just 120 of 345 acres of the park is open to free, unscheduled use by the public.
Kate Curdts said being able to drive to parking places in the park made it possible for her frail 95-year-old mother to enjoy time at Brackenridge before she died earlier this year.
Anyone who couldn't attend the meetings can tell the City what they think via email at BrackenridgeParkMasterPlan@sanantonio.gov or via mail sent to the Parks and Recreation Department labeled Brackenridge Park Master Plan at PO BOX 839966, San Antonio, TX 78283-3966.