BHP Billiton gave $2.4 million to San Antonio River Foundation for the construction of Confluence Park. Photo by Joan Vinson.

The $10 million capital campaign to fund a Confluence Park “outdoor learning laboratory” where the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek meet along the Mission Reach took a big step forward Thursday when BHP Billiton, a global resource company headquartered in Australia, gave $2.4 million to the San Antonio River Foundation.

Confluence Park, which is expected to open by 2017, is a three-acre park designed by Lake/Flato in collaboration with Matsys Design Studio that will sit on the former industrial staging site owned by CPS Energy. The San Antonio River Authority envisions the park as an outdoor learning laboratory where school children and the public experience and learn about water conservation and management, environmental stewardship and habit protection in the urban core.

The park will include an educational pavilion, a large scale water catchment system, ecotype demonstration quadrants, interactive play stations, and a gateway to the hike and bike trail along the Mission Reach section of the river.

New renderings of the park were displayed at a luncheon on Thursday.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Rod Skaufel, the BHP Billiton president of North American shale, said he’s been hearing the park called a “life-sized teaching tool.”

“I think that is a beautiful word picture,” he said.

BHP Billiton’s funds will be used to construct and name two projects, the “BHP Billiton Pavilion” and the “BHP Multi-Purpose Room.”

The donation moved the capital campaign beyond the halfway mark, jumpstarting the second phase of the campaign.

Skaufel said BHP Billiton has 300,000 net acres in the Eagleford Shale, and last year was operating 18 drilling rigs, making it the second largest producer in the Eagleford Shale. Skaufel said he wanted to invest in the community where his company was doing business.

Rod Skaufel answers questions during a press conference on Thursday. Photo by Joan Vinson.
Rod Skaufel answers questions during a press conference on Thursday. Photo by Joan Vinson.

“We wanted to do something material that impacted a lot of people that were aligned with our charter values. When you look at this project it promotes health, it promotes the environment, it promotes water conservation, it promotes education,” he said. “When we just looked at it, everything about it was just so perfect. We really asked ourselves, what doesn’t it offer that were looking for.”

Environmental education is at the heart of this project, and with the funds donated by BHP Billiton, children and adults alike will have the chance to learn about Texas ecotypes and their relationships with one another.

SARF Executive Director Estela Avery has been raising funds for more than a year while project manager Stuart Allen, a San Antonio-based artist, has been working closely with project engineers on design.

Avery is the wife of jewelry designer James Avery. The family has given a $1 million gift to the River Foundation to fund education programs at Confluence Park.

The plan is to complete fundraising this year and finish off the project in 2017, just in time for the city’s 300th anniversary. It’s the first of what could be many private-public improvements along the Mission Reach’s eight-mile course through some of the Southside’s most underdeveloped and forgotten neighborhoods.

Want to contribute to the creation of Confluence Park? Donations, no matter how modest, are welcomed. Just click here. Naming rights can be had for as little as $2,000 if you’d like to be remembered on the park’s three bike racks, $10,000 to place your name on the park’s entry gate, and all the way up to $1.5 million to sponsor the Main Pavilion – though judging from the hype made over this give, that last honor may have already been sold.

*Featured/top image: BHP Billiton gave $2.4 million to San Antonio River Foundation for the construction of Confluence Park. Photo by Joan Vinson.  

Related Stories:

Confluence Park: Nature’s Learning Laboratory Atop the Mission Reach

Confluence Park to Receive ‘Major Gift’ From Mystery Donor

Something Monday: Confluence Park, Where Tech and Art Meet The San Antonio River

Nature Meets City as Hardberger Park’s Urban Ecology Center Opens

Former Rivard Report Assistant Editor Joan Vinson is a San Antonio native who graduated from The University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She's a yoga fanatic and an adventurer at heart....