From left: Julián and Jayden watch ducks and play with a fishing rod on the river in Brackenridge Park. Photo by Rocío Guenther.
Children enjoy natural and manmade features at Brackenridge Park. Credit: Rocío Guenther / San Antonio Report

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Brackenridge Park is a municipal park of national significance and one of San Antonio’s greatest cultural resources; its future is the subject of a one-day conference on March 3, organized by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) in association with the Brackenridge Park Conservancy (BPC).

Leading with Landscape III: Renewing San Antonio’s Brackenridge Park will feature nationally prominent landscape architects and allied professionals who have worked on major projects in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and elsewhere, along with Mayor Ivy R. Taylor, and other city officials and stakeholders.

San Antonio is making strategic infrastructure investments reminiscent of those in Houston, New York and Toronto where new parks and open spaces are being built to a high level of design, often leveraging a diversity of public and private partnerships with leadership coming from multiple sectors. What distinguishes San Antonio is a greater density of rich and complex heritage resources that includes the Missions, the Alamo and others, which are integral to the city’s identity and serve diverse constituencies. A core part of this heritage is Brackenridge Park, a site rich in cultural resources that spans more than 11,000 years.

According to Charles A. Birnbaum, TCLF’s president and CEO, “change and continuity is endemic to all cultural resources, but finding a balance is essential,” he said, adding “our goal as conference organizers is to create a community-based forum for a spirited and lively conversation between public users, stakeholders, stewards and experts, from both inside and outside of San Antonio, which will place an emphasis on a strong research and planning foundation to help inform and guide future design and management decision-making.”

The conference, to be held at the Stable at Pearl, will draw attention to local, regional, and national project work that are exemplars of planning and design, while striking a balance for a landscape’s complex natural, historic, cultural, and ecological systems.

It will begin with introductory remarks by representatives from the BPC and TCLF who will set the stage. Then, a morning panel featuring local speakers will explore what we can learn from local success stories where planning has embraced multiple values (e.g. natural, scenic, and cultural). An afternoon panel will include four speakers from around the country who will be charged with addressing Brackenridge Park’s myriad planning and design challenges. This panel will be solutions-oriented and will draw on each speaker’s national and international experience. Both sessions will have a moderator responsible for setting the stage and serving as a facilitator. Both panels will also have “respondents” who will comment on the presentations.

“Brackenridge Park, unlike New York City’s Central Park, was not designed by a famous landscape architect. Consequently, it has not been afforded the attention it deserves,”Birnbaum noted. “All of the non-San Antonio panelists have visited the park in advance of the conference. And, all of them have been nothing short of astonished at its richness and uniqueness.”

Architects tour the Sunken Gardens in Brackenridge Park.
Landscape architects tour the Sunken Gardens in Brackenridge Park. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

For nearly twenty years, TCLF has organized numerous conferences that examine urban planning and landscape architecture.  Most recently, TCLF’s Leading with Landscape II: The Houston Transformation (2016) and Second Wave of Modernism III: Leading with Landscape (Toronto, 2015) conferences have taken multi-disciplinary approaches to understanding the balance that exists between stewardship of natural and cultural resources and the evolving identities of urban areas. Brackenridge Park Conservancy officials attended the Houston conference, at which Mayor Taylor was a participant, and subsequently teamed with TCLF to organize the March 3 event.

The conference has received generous support from presenting sponsors, Pearl, The John and Florence Newman Foundation, and the City of San Antonio – Parks and Recreation Department, media partner, The Rivard Report, and a consortium of other sponsors.

For community stakeholders from the general public who reside in San Antonio, a limited number of complimentary tickets are available – complete information and registration here.

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Nord Wennerstrom

Nord Wennerstrom is the director of communications for The Cultural Landscape Foundation.