A rendering of the planned Phil Hardberger Park Land Bridge
A preliminary rendering of the Phil Hardberger Park Land Bridge in the city's Northwest side. Credit: Courtesy / Rialto Studio

The Historic and Design Review Commission on Wednesday gave conceptual approval to the $23 million land bridge that would connect the east and west sides of Phil Hardberger Park, currently divided by Wurzbach Parkway.

The Northwest side park has always been divided by the busy thoroughfare, which is inconvenient and dangerous for park visitors and denizens to cross on foot. The proposed bridge, less than 200 feet wide, would be covered in natural vegetation and elevated paths to allow animals and humans to cross.

Existing trails on each side of the park will direct foot traffic to sky walks situated on top of the bridge. The east side of the park, off of Blanco Road, features two miles of trails on the Geology Trail and Water Loop. The west side of the park, located off of Military Drive, has more than two miles of trails on the Oak Loop Trail and Savannah Loop Trail.

Former Mayor Phil Hardberger has advocated and raised funds for the bridge since the project launched in 2014. The design is not only functional, but also serves as “a world-class public art statement,” he told the Rivard Report at the time.

A rendering of the proposed Sky Walk at Phil Hardberger Park.
A rendering of the proposed Sky Walk at Phil Hardberger Park. Credit: Courtesy / Rialto Studio

Funding for the bridge came from three sources: $13 million from the City’s 2017 Municipal Bond, $1 million from the Texas Park and Wildlife Department, and the rest from the Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy – Hardberger and his wife Linda donated $1 million of their own money to the Conservancy’s effort. San Antonio-based Rialto Studio is leading the project team which includes Stephen Stimson Associates and Cude Engineers.

Critics of the land bridge, including former mayoral candidates and current Council members, have said that public money should instead be allocated to parks with greater repair needs or other infrastructure projects. Some wonder if animals will use the bridge.

Several studies, including one from Montana State University that tracked bear hair across a land bridge that cuts through Banff National Park, have indicated that the structures can help animals migrate for food, water, and mating.

According to documents submitted to the Historic and Design Review Commission, staff recommends conceptual approval of the project. To download and review the submitted materials, click here.

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.