The San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department will host a series of events at Brackenridge Park in October and November to showcase the Brackenridge Park Draft Master Plan and how it can improve the existing park.

Each event is free and open to the public and will highlight the master plan’s goals, which include increasing the park’s visibility and pedestrian access, preserving cultural and historic attributes, and restoring natural park features.

At first glance, the events – which range from painting classes to a Halloween costume contest to a bike tour – don’t appear to be designed for community input. But in a Monday phone interview with the Rivard Report, Xavier Urrutia, director of the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, said that the events represent a new approach to community engagement and are meant to showcase what the park has to offer today while ensuring that patrons have a say in what happens in its future.

“This is for the public to come out and hopefully learn something in a non-academic setting,” Urrutia said.

The community engagement process in the traditional sense has already been quite thorough, as Parks & Rec officials have hosted several sit-down input meetings across the city.

The new approach is “event-based master planning,” a term coined by City Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), who is chair of the Neighborhoods and Livability Committee. He told the Rivard Report that the events are a reflection of the previous round of community meetings that called for more citizen engagement in the master plan process.

“We’ve had additional public engagement meetings and we reported back to the (Council’s) Neighborhoods and Livability Committee,” Urrutia explained. “At that time, it was recommended that certain items not be considered. There were a number of items that had a lot of public support and we largely removed the ones that didn’t.”

Among the items taken out of the plan due to community feedback were trams that would transport people to and from different areas of the park, reduced surface parking, and the closure of several roads that lead in and out of the park.

The coming events are a way to reach out beyond “books and words,” Urrutia said, and present Brackenridge Park in a more fun, engaging way.

He added that the master plan is currently being finalized and is scheduled for release before the end of the year. The citizens’ comments gathered at these events will be taken into consideration by the Neighborhoods and Livability Committee and, ultimately, City Council. The meetings, which have yet to be scheduled, will be open to the public and have opportunities for comment.

“This is a thoughtful approach for the community,” Treviño said. “There’s a demonstrated desire to know what’s going on and this is an affirmation of a learning process. It’s incredibly inclusive and as transparent as can be.”

Tours of the park are also available by the Brackenridge Park Conservancy, he added.

The forthcoming events are listed below. Comment cards for feedback will be available at all events. Video testimonials and surveys will be conducted at a select few.

Brackenridge Cultural Soirée

Friday, Oct. 7 at 5:30 p.m.

Location: Koehler Pavilion

With the backdrop of a Flamenco performance, attendees can learn more about the master plan and see an exhibition of archaeological artifacts found within the park.

Brackenridge by Train

Tuesday, Oct. 11 at  5:30 p.m.

Location: Train Depot

Take a ride through the park on the famous train with stops for hitting piñatas, flying kites, and more.

Costume Contest and Monsters, Inc. at Sunken Garden Theater

Saturday, Oct. 22 at 6 p.m.; Movies will begin at sunset.

Location: Sunken Garden Theater

Following a Halloween costume contest, a short film of the history of Brackenridge Park and the feature film Monsters, Inc. will be screened.

Brackenridge Nature Bike Tour

Saturday, Oct. 29 from 9-11 a.m.

Location: Meet at Joske Pavilion

A guided bike tour of the park. Learn about controlling invasive plant species and identify ways to improve park flow both internally and externally.

Brackenridge Coffee & Painting Class

Wednesday, Nov. 9 from 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Location: Lions Field

A painting class and a cup of coffee supplement discussions of the master plan.

Brackenridge Archaeology Exploration

Saturday, Nov. 19 from 10 a.m.-noon

Location: Lambert Softball Field

Children of all ages are invited to take part in a recreated archaeological dig to find replicas of artifacts originally found in the park.

Top Image: Guests ride the Brackenridge Park train during an event hosted by the Brackenridge Park Conservancy earlier this year.  Photo by Scott Ball.  

Related Stories:

Brackenridge Park: ‘We’re Not Going to Do This Without You’

Brackenridge Park Master Plan ‘Still Needs Work’

Brackenridge Park Plan Headed to Council Committee

Brackenridge Park: Some Say ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It’

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James McCandless

Former intern James McCandless is a recent St. Mary's University graduate. He has worked with the San Antonio Current and Texas Public Radio.