The Museum and Mission reaches of the San Antonio River have proven transformative over the last decade, making the city home to one of the nation’s great urban linear parks, beautifying a once-blighted waterway, providing new recreational and public health opportunities in a city in desperate need of both, and restoring native plant and animal life along the river.

A city that long favored the commercialized downtown River Walk as a magnet for conventioneers and tourists finally made the river a welcoming destination for locals. Just like it was 300 years ago.

The Howard Peak Greenway Trails System, when its 130-mile network of trails along the region’s complex creek system is completed, will place San Antonio among the top U.S. cities with great urban parks. Even now, with 82 miles of finished trails, this underappreciated attraction is the envy of other cities in Texas and beyond.

That’s why voters for more than two decades have overwhelmingly supported construction of the trail system. And it’s why three council members opposing the already reduced $110 million bond allocation to continue the work over the next five years are so wrong.

City Manager Erik Walsh and staff, backed by Mayor Ron Nirenberg and a council majority, should brush off the knee-jerk opposition and deliver on unequivocal promises to voters. Enough compromise. It’s time to hold the line.

Why is there any opposition when record funding is also allocated to roads, drainage, and other projects in individual districts in the $1.2 billion 2022-2027 bond? The answer is: Some elected officials are pie bakers willing to serve an entire city; others are pie cutters, obsessed with their individual slice of the pie.

Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) opposes anything that does not carry a “meat and potatoes” label. His vision, if that is the right word, for city government is one that doesn’t venture beyond the pothole brigade. He and Councilman John Courage (D9), who also opposes significant trail funding, both heel to their perceived district profiles. Yet voters in both districts have consistently supported funding of the trail system.

The third voice of dissent, first-term Councilwoman Teri Castillo (D5), recalls former Councilman Greg Brockhouse, both seemingly defined by all they oppose rather than what they support.

Castillo, in calling for a bottom-up approach to what she claims is a top-down process, should study municipal elections for the last 20 years to see the strong support repeatedly demonstrated by voters.

Castillo’s Westside district, the victim of a century of municipal disinvestment, will benefit enormously from the extension of the greenway trails. So will the South Side and East Side when the network of trails is finished. This kind of transformative investment in the historic inner city is exactly what the so-called “equity lens” approach to infrastructure spending should be making happen in San Antonio.

By the same measure, Walsh and City Council should enthusiastically support the proposal to construct an arboretum on hundreds of acres of undeveloped land recently donated by TJX Companies along the river next to Mission Espada. The initiative is detailed in this Oct. 17 commentary by former Mayor Henry Cisneros. The arboretum would forever protect this unprecedented donation of land given to Texas A&M University-San Antonio and the San Antonio River Authority.

A $10 million allocation would match what former Mayor Phil Hardberger convinced City Manager Sheryl Sculley and City Council to include in the 2017 bond to help complete construction of the Robert Tobin Land Bridge connecting the two properties that comprise Hardberger Park.

County and city bond money coupled with additional philanthropic support would lead to the development of what one local official called “the Hardberger Park of the South Side.” The university and river authority could then form a nonprofit conservancy to select a design team and begin private fundraising.

City Council members should have a voice in the process of deciding how bond dollars are spent. So should citizens, as the public input process gets underway in the coming weeks. After all, city staff estimates the infrastructure needs of the city exceed $6.6 billion. There are hard choices to make in dividing up $1.2 billion. Still, individual council members should not be able to derail existing citywide projects.

Each bond cycle should accomplish three things: One, make San Antonio a safer, better-maintained city. Two, spur private sector investment that follows the public investment; and three, fund visionary projects that make the city a better place to live and work. The greenway trails system is two-thirds built. Let’s keep going.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report, is now a freelance journalist.