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One Bexar County commissioner is asking questions about a potential proposal to have the county take over funding for hike and bike trails along local creekway parks.
In a letter posted on Facebook late Tuesday, Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert asked County Manager David Smith about the $200 million in the county budget up for vote regarding the upkeep of linear parks. The vote could come as soon as Tuesday, Calvert wrote, but no agendas for commissioners meetings after Jan. 5 have been
Read Calvert’s letter here.
“The Commissioners Court is being rushed to allocate $200 million for linear parks,” Calvert said on Facebook. “Judge [Nelson] Wolff is assisting Mayor [Ron] Nirenberg’s efforts to do a [one-eighth]-cent sales tax for VIA [Metropolitan Transit] and transportation and fund aquifer protection from other funding — funding which I am not sure who is covering and at what amounts.”
Calvert and Wolff did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday morning.
Calvert’s post is related to Nirenberg and Wolff’s proposals to shift sales taxes that currently fund protection of land over San Antonio’s main drinking water source, as well as a network of paved trails along local waterways. The two want to see that funding go towards VIA Metropolitan Transit, which they say is vastly underfunded compared to other Texas big-city transit authorities.
The City manages both the drinking water and trails programs, though Calvert’s letter attributes the trails program entirely to the San Antonio River Authority. The River Authority tried to take on some of the funding but did not get the necessary votes to do so. It currently has no stake in the program.
After the River Authority vote, Nirenberg then proposed a San Antonio Water System takeover of funding to protect the Edwards Aquifer. However, Nirenberg has said nothing about the future of the linear creekway program.
As of September, the City’s Parks had spent $113 million out of the $190 million for creekway trails that voters have approved four times since 2000. That tax will be collected until early 2021. The City has so far built 69 miles of trails, with funding committed for another 50 miles.
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In his letter, Calvert asks 17 questions about the aquifer program, the creekway trails, and Nirenberg’s transportation proposal. Calvert wrote the purpose of the $200 million in question has not been revealed to him or his fellow commissioners, which he called “an insult to the intelligence of the two million people we represent.”
In November, members of the Linear Creekways Parks Advisory Board, which advises City officials on the use of sales taxes for trails, passed a resolution calling to keep the program under the umbrella of the City’s Parks and Recreation Department and leave the funding source unchanged.
“I am utterly disgusted at this proposed involvement of Bexar County in this issue,” board member Charles Bartlett said in an email to the Rivard Report. “It seems to me that there is a desperate outreach to secure new funding for the protection of our drinking water and the management of the San Antonio City hike and bike trail system.”