Near-unanimous, supportive applause could be heard at a Wednesday night public meeting regarding plans for the land next to the historic Hays Street Bridge.

The near-East Side community has come a long way from meetings filled with shouts of dissent and support for a developer’s now-scrapped plans to build a multi-story apartment building there. Conceptual designs emerged Wednesday for a park that includes a 12,000-square-foot skate park, bathrooms, a bike repair station, green space, a small playground, and educational elements to tell the story of the bridge, adjacent railroad, and the people of the broader East Side.

Funding for the multi-million dollar park is expected to come from the City’s 2022 bond, but Homer Garcia, interim director of the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, is hoping to find smaller funding sources to temporarily activate the space in the meantime.

“We’re looking at removing that fence [that currently surrounds the park],” add some grass, and host small events there such as fitness classes, tree adoptions, and more, Garcia said.

Garcia spoke to roughly 40 people at the third and final public meeting before the design team sends the basic plan for the park, which will be named for previous landowners Berkley V. and Vincent M. Dawson, to City Council next week.

The planned 1.69-acre park at 803 S. Cherry St. is a result of a land swap deal the City of San Antonio reached over the summer with a developer. The apartments that were initially planned next to the bridge will instead be built less than one mile south on land the City traded for the land next to Hays Street Bridge. Part of the ordinance approving the swap required that a plan for the park be in place by the new year.

Though some felt the skate park element was too big, most agreed that it could be a much-appreciated amenity to the area. During a previous public input meeting, designers had proposed design options with 10,000- and 12,000-square-foot areas for skateboards, rollerblades, rollerskates, bikes, and non-electric scooters. The design presented on Wednesday includes a smaller, “beginners” skate park that would be connected to a larger area for more advanced skaters, for a total of 12,000 square feet. 

The playground elements would include a miniature bridge, train, small homes, and city elements to play on and help interpret the area’s history. A “timeline walk” will swoop through the park between the northeast and southeast corners of the park to provide historical context to park visitors.

This site design shows preliminary details of a "timeline walk" that would depict the history of the Hays Street Bridge and surrounding area.
This site design shows preliminary details of a “timeline walk” that would depict the history of the Hays Street Bridge and surrounding area. Credit: Courtesy / Dunaway Associates

“We want to make it inviting for all people, all ages,” Garcia said.

Consultants with Dunaway Associates, a firm hired by the City to design the park, and the City’s staff received thanks and applause from many in the crowd.

It’s unclear if a small pavilion that’s currently located downtown in Alamo Plaza will be relocated to the park to serve as a shade and event space in the park. The crowd seemed lukewarm on recycling the structure for use in the new Eastside park. The pavilion is slated to be replaced by the Alamo Cenotaph.

Additional public meetings will be held to finalize the details of materials, programming, and educational materials used for the park, Garcia said.

“We have zero money, kids,” East Side resident Liz Franklin said near the end of the meeting, looking out to the younger members of the audience who came to support the skate park. “We’re going to need you again at [bond funding meetings] or we will get zero money. … We have to campaign vigorously for all sorts of money.”

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. She was the San Antonio Report's...