The World Heritage Missions represent the past, present, and future of San Antonio. I am so proud of the local community and the City as a whole for the continuing collaboration to implement the World Heritage Work Plan so we maximize benefits of this designation for both residents and visitors. Likewise, I want to encourage the community to get involved in the process. Our work has only begun. We need your continued support and input.

Headshot of Colleen Swain. Photo Courtesy of City of San Antonio.
Colleen Swain

A critical element of the work plan is to update four of the seven neighborhood plans to reflect the desired and appropriate development goals for the areas surrounding our historic missions. World Heritage Director Colleen Swain, representatives from the Office of Historic Preservation, Development Services, and Planning and Community Development are meeting with neighborhood associations and stakeholders to collect additional feedback for incorporation into those neighborhood plans.

In late June, the City will host a 30-day open house that highlights the proposed amendments to each of the neighborhood plans. The open house locations and dates will be posted online, promoted on social media, and notices will be sent out to property owners. Comment cards for public input will be available and City staff will be in attendance at the Public Library locations on certain days and times to answer questions and collect feedback. All information will be available in English and Spanish. The amendments will also be posted for viewing online. For more information contact 210 -207-PLAN (7526).

The comments and questions collected during the open house process will be presented at a series of final open house events in late summer/early fall. This process will give residents the opportunity to view maps, receive handouts, and talk one-on-one with staff.

The City will then host a community meeting that will include a brief overview of the plan amendment process and the proposed amendments. Notices will be mailed to property owners within each neighborhood plan boundary as well as an additional 500 ft. radius of the plan amendment location for all meetings. The summer is committed to community input. The goal is to bring the neighborhood plan amendments to City Council in the fall and then initiate the rezoning process.

It’s a lengthy process, but one designed to maximize citizen input.

Also this summer, VIA will host an event to kick off the new VIVA Mission Route on Monday, June 6. Something we heard repeatedly at the symposia was the desire to have public transportation to all five Missions. This exciting new route will provide daily 30-minute service from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and expand service to all of the Missions, with service extending to Mission Espada when the reconstruction on Espada Road is complete. VIA plans to offer free rides the first weekend (June 11-12) to promote the route.

Creating a sense of place was also a common theme in the symposia. I am excited to announce that later this summer, photo mural displays that celebrate the images and stories collected to date will be unveiled along with the World Heritage route. Additionally, new World Heritage banners will be unveiled and displayed along key routes to the missions. The banners use one brand image for the World Heritage Trail interspersed with icons for each Mission.

I would like to thank the San Antonio River Authority for making the banners possible and as I have said many times, it takes a team and we will continue to make connections by celebrating and working together.

Artist's rendering: Did Mission San José once look like this? Courtesy image.
Artist’s rendering: Did Mission San José once look like this? Courtesy image.

And speaking of celebrating, I am pleased to announce that the community will commemorate the World Heritage Designation the second weekend of September. The event will kick off with the popular Restored by Light event at Mission San José on the evening of Friday, Sept. 9. This free community event will feature entertainment, children’s activities, and picnic opportunities until dark when the façade of the Mission will be “restored” with a projected image of how it looked at the time of its completion around 1782.

On Saturday, September 10, we will continue the celebration by starting the day at Mission County Park with a bike ride to all the sites. Riders of all levels can travel to all the missions or just a few. A passport will be provided for this event and free educational opportunities will be available at each location.

The day will end with a ticketed event at Mission County Park Pavilion featuring live music and craft beer. The goal of the event is to not only celebrate and bring new people to the missions, but also to raise $100,000 in funds in celebration of the National Park Service Centennial. The funds raised would be used to fund Phase 1 of a trail connection from the River to Mission San José and eventually to Mission Marquee Plaza.

Thank you, Robert Rivard, for bringing the idea for an annual World Heritage Festival to the City and our partners at Bexar County, the San Antonio River Authority and the National Park Service, and to the Rivard Report for serving as official media sponsor and an organizing founder of the event.

We are grateful to all of our partners participating in the planning of this exciting celebration weekend and are currently reaching out to potential sponsors. Please stay tuned for more exciting news.

Again, I reaffirm my commitment to ensure that any efforts to maximize the benefits of our World Heritage designation are authentic to our character, respectful of the surrounding parishes, parks, neighborhoods, and businesses, and that it includes input from everyone. Our efforts will continue to encourage making connections by working and celebrating together.

Top image: Community members congregate outside of Mission San Francisco de la Espada following a church service on Sunday. Photo by Scott Ball.

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Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran is proud to be from a family whose 200-year history in San Antonio and South Texas has a long-standing legacy of service in the community she currently represents. She was...