This article has been updated.

City officials presented near-final design plans for the Brackenridge Park 2017 bond project Wednesday night that, if approved by state and city officials, would result in major environmental and cultural improvements to that part of the park.

As shared in a detailed, 63-page presentation that contextualizes the project within the park and the larger master plan, the project would reduce the amount of impervious cover in the project area, reintroduce native grasses, plants and trees to control erosion, expand biodiversity, boost resilience and reduce the area’s heat island effects.

The presentation also offered a detailed schematic of which trees would still be removed and why.

Since project details were first unveiled in January, some residents have been pushing for the city to keep all 105 of the trees slated for removal in earlier iterations of the project’s designs. These residents have followed the design process closely over the last seven months, attending each of the open meetings and emphatically voicing their disapproval throughout.  

After gathering public input from six previous public meetings, city officials and landscape architecture firm SWA Group reduced the number of trees planned for removal to 77, including 21 invasive or diseased trees, said Jamaal Moreno, the bond project manager. Another 40 will now be moved within the project area.

Also for the first time, the city offered a detailed look at the 271 trees that would be planted in the area to fill in both the tree canopy and the understory, both of which are degraded, according to a 2017 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center ecological site assessment the project is using to guide its landscape work, which offered recommendations to improve flora and water quality in the park.

The presentation also calculated how much carbon dioxide will be captured from these new tree plantings after five and 10 years.

A map shows the proposed day one tree canopy in Brackenridge Park if improvements are approved.
This map shows what the tree canopy will look like once the new trees are planted in the project area. By year five, the trees will remove an estimated 53,716 pounds of carbon per tree; by year ten, the city estimates that will grow to 61,219 pounds per tree per year. Credit: Courtesy / City of San Antonio

“Unfortunately, Brackenridge Park has been neglected in different ways over time,” Assistant City Manager David McCary said at the start of the presentation. “But the good news is, the strategies have all come together … your work has not gone in vain.”

The latest design plans incorporate feedback from the prior public meetings, including strategies to save some of the trees that had been slated for removal, said Rachel Wilkins, an SWA Group associate.

Phase one of the project will include the restoration of the river walls, the Lambert Beach walls and stairs, grading and earthwork improvements. Phase two will include the restoration of the Upper Labor lily pond, add water back into the historic raceway, and add in native trees and plants.

A map shows the 98 trees proposed to be removed from Brackenridge Park.
This diagram shows which trees are slated for removal, and why. City officials say another 40 trees in the project area will be moved rather than removed. Credit: Courtesy / City of San Antonio

The design plans, along with construction plans, must now be submitted to the Texas Historic Commission and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. If approved, they must then receive green lights from the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission, and finally from City Council before construction can begin.

Moreno said he and city staff are hopeful they can get all the necessary approvals to begin construction early next year.

Since the project details were first unveiled in January some residents have been pushing for the city to keep all the trees originally slated for removal.

Many of the residents who have followed the process closely said Wednesday evening they felt the public input process has been condescending.

Resident Ida Ayala, who has attended every meeting, said despite the seven meetings and subsequent changes to the design, she and others don’t feel their voices have been heard through the city’s public process — and they still don’t want to see a single tree removed.

Moreno acknowledged their frustration, but said he believes residents’ input has improved the project.

“There are multiple items that we heard that we tried to address and I think the project is better because of it,” he said.

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report. A native San Antonian, she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a degree in telecommunication media...