Bexar County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to donate $1 million to Confluence Park in memory of Sara “Sally” Buchanan.

Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) was not present for the vote.

The County’s $1 million gift will come from the $6.2 million in Mission Reach reimbursement funds that came to the County from the San Antonio River Authority last week. The reimbursement was issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the River Authority, representing roughly 10% of the $61.3 million federal commitment to reimburse the County for its share of the $271.4 million Mission Reach Improvement Project.

(Read more: River Authority Announces $6.2 Million Reimbursement for County)

The $1 million will be paid to the San Antonio River Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the River Authority.

River Authority General Manager Suzanne Scott, River Foundation Executive Director Estela Avery and board member Mike Lackey, City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3), Sally’s husband Bob Buchanan, and several members of Sally’s family were present to thank the Court for its contribution and its recognition of Buchanan’s commitment to the environment and preservation of San Antonio’s natural resources.

Sally served as the chair of the River Road Neighborhood Association in the 1980s, on the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau Advisory Board and the Paseo del Rio Association, and she was a long-standing board member and former president of the San Antonio Conservation Society. She had served as a River Authority board member since 1999.

Bob spoke of Sally’s commitment to the city as well as her long-running efforts to improve the San Antonio River she loved so much.

“Sally is not one to take credit for things, because other people are the ones who do the hard work and get it finished. This gift is a marvelous thing for the Commissioners Court to do. Her love was the (San Antonio) River and the idea of having the Confluence Park,” Bob said. “This is a marvelous stepping-stone because her wish was to have a maintenance fund for the park, but you can’t have a fund if you don’t have a building for it, so this keeps it going.”

Bob Buchanan, husband of Sara "Sally" Buchanan, addresses Bexar County Commissioners to thank them for their donation to Confluence ParK in Sally's memory.  Photo by Camille Garcia.
Bob Buchanan, husband of Sara “Sally” Buchanan, addresses Bexar County Commissioners to thank them for their donation to Confluence Park in Sally’s memory. Photo by Camille Garcia. Credit: Camille Garcia / Rivard Report

He also mentioned the Court’s dedication to finishing the Mission Reach and Museum Reach projects, which were also among Sally’s passions. He closed by asking that attention be paid to the River Road area, one of the few parts of the river that retains its natural bed.

“Throughout this whole system, really no funds were ever put into there because the emphasis was put on the Museum and the Mission Reach,” Bob said. “If anything can be done to alleviate some major erosion problems that are threatening private property and public safety, I know her memory would greatly appreciate it.”

Scott, on behalf of the River Authority, praised Sally for her tireless work on improvements to San Antonio’s waterways.

“Her tentacles within this community were far-reaching between the work she has done with the river. She really brought a sense of responsibility to the River Authority, not only the work we do in Bexar County, which is extremely important, but (also to) understanding what we do in Bexar County and how it influences what happens throughout the entire basin,” Scott said. “I think she had a real love for the river, its history, and its purpose, not only here, but in the entire state of Texas.”

Scott said that the River Authority looks forward to working with the Court and the River Foundation to make the most of the Confluence Park donation. The River Authority will develop the park’s educational programming and assist with maintenance moving forward.

Sally Buchanan. Photo courtesy of San Antonio River Authority.
Sally Buchanan. Photo courtesy of San Antonio River Authority.

Sally’s family members, including her youngest son Larkin and her sister Eleanor Stromberger, thanked the Court for its donation in Sally’s memory.

The public officials present at Tuesday’s meeting unanimously sang praises for Sally’s work over the years.

Councilwoman Viagran said that Sally worked tirelessly for the River Authority and the World Heritage designation of the missions. She also thanked Sally’s family for sharing her with all of San Antonio.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said that the County was very appreciative of the Buchanan family and what its members have done for the city.

“It’s an honor for us to make this donation in her name after the funds that she’s been able to raise to make sure that we have art and education for the thousands and thousands of young people who come to Confluence Park to really understand what the environment means for Confluence Park,” Wolff said.

Commissioner Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez (Pct. 1) said that the decision to make a donation to Confluence Park in memory of Sally was an easy one.

“When I asked and talked to the Court about this, it was just so easy. It was just phenomenal the support that I had from everybody here,” Rodriguez said.

Commissioner Paul Elizondo (Pct. 2) reflected on the many projects he and Sally had worked on together.

“She believed in quality of life. She believed in the community, in the river. She helped me and everyone else on the River (Authority) board to think ‘south,’” Elizondo said. “We worked to keep that dream alive of working further south on the river.”

He added that she was instrumental in ensuring that the river south of downtown was improved because it was meant for the people of the community to enjoy.

Sara Matthews Buchanan was born in San Antonio on Sept. 18, 1942, to Dr. John L. Matthews, and Sara Douglas Matthews. She graduated from St. Mary’s Hall and Mills College in Oakland, Calif., with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History. She was married to Robert T. Buchanan on October 24, 1971. She died July 30 after a long battle with cancer.

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Top image: Rendering of Confluence Park, courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects and the San Antonio River Foundation.

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Sarah Talaat

Sarah Talaat

Former Rivard Report intern Sarah Talaat graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2016. You can find her in Beijing, China where she is pursuing a business journalism master's at Tsinghua...