Thursday’s groundbreaking event for Phase 1 of the $175 million San Pedro Creek Improvements Project (SPCIP) strayed from the typical hard hat and shovel-wielding ceremony. Instead, a 30-minute opera – with ballet, Native American dances, and a full orchestra – marked the occasion at the Fox Tech High School football field.

Centuries ago, San Pedro Creek was a thriving waterway that nourished the indigenous communities that lived along it. In the 20th century, flood control projects turned the waterway into a drainage ditch, its magic and history lost beneath the concrete. The nearly two-year improvements project – spearheaded by the San Antonio River Authority in collaboration with Bexar County – will restore the creek into a linear park that will once again welcome communities to its banks and connect vital destinations in the urban core.

More than 500 residents, project partners, and city leaders came together Thursday for the groundbreaking, which honored the integral role the creek has played in San Antonio and celebrated its future through a multilingual performance featuring music by Alamo City Opera, Opera San Antonio, the San Antonio Symphony, and the Children’s Chorus of San Antonio, classical dancers from Ballet San Antonio and Native American dancers from American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions.

San Pedro Creek Groundbreaking from Rivard Report on Vimeo.

To see the production’s full libretto, click here. To see the full score, click here. Tomorrow, the Rivard Report will publish a more in-depth story, complete with photos and a video, about the special performance.

The gathering also kicked off the city’s inaugural World Heritage Festival, which will continue throughout the weekend with various activities at the Missions.

Before the groundbreaking ceremony took place, Epifanio Hernandez, a member of the Tehuan Band of Mission Indians, and Fr. David Garcia, pastoral administrator of Mission Concepción and director of the Old Spanish Missions, gave special prayers asking Mother Earth for forgiveness and God to bless the creek and surrounding land.

Mike Lackey, River Authority board chairman, commended the leadership of Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and County Commissioner Paul Elizondo (Pct. 2) in helping make the project a reality through their continued support and funding from the Commissioner’s Court. It is one of several projects taken on by the Bexar County Heritage & Parks Department and its Director Betty Bueché.

“This will be one of the greatest legacy projects that this Commissioner’s Court has ever done,” Wolff said. “It is indeed a transformative project. You’re going to see the quality of life enhanced, you’re going to see economic growth occur here, you’re going to see cultural vibrancy.”

City Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), SAISD Board President and SPCIP Subcommittee Member Patti Radle, River Authority General Manager Suzanne Scott, and SPCIP Subcommittee Co-Chairs Michael Cortez and Jerry Geyer also were recognized for their efforts and commitment to the transformative project.

Missing from the event was Mayor Ivy Taylor, who was unable to attend due to a personal matter.

“This is only the first of many celebrations,” Lackey said. “… Once the San Pedro Creek improvements are completed, you will be returning with your family and friends with a renewed reverence for the history, art, culture, and beauty of the creek.”

Over the past few years, Cortez and Geyer said, the improvements project subcommittee has been working to gather community input and consult with professionals to shape the direction and planning for the creek.

Geyer added that he and his colleagues worked hard to “make sure the creek reflects (the) flood control, the environmental, recreational, and quality (of) life concerns of our people, our stakeholders.”

Later in the program, to symbolize “breaking ground” on the creek, Wolff and Elizondo turned two wheels on the stage that set off a water formation tinted with vibrant colors over the nearby creek.

“We have an area now that not only has been long neglected, but at one time … was a thriving area,” said Elizondo, who was born and grew up close by. After some time, the creek became a drainage ditch that was a so-called “dividing line” between the Westside community and downtown, he said.

“… Now with this creation of this creek, I’m sure it’s something that will bring this community together (again).”

Radle said that the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project is an endeavor that shows that San Antonio is a “community of vision.

“We’re a community of creativity,” she added, “a community (that is) not afraid to take the risks of making something beautiful knowing it costs a pretty penny.”

This article was originally published on Sept. 8, 2016.

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Camille Garcia

Camille Garcia is a journalist born and raised in San Antonio. She formerly worked at the San Antonio Report as assistant editor and reporter. Her email is