The new markers found along the red trail at McAllister Park.
New signs mark the Red Trail at McAllister Park. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

A network of trails in McAllister Park in north-central San Antonio will soon be easier to navigate, thanks to a partnership involving a mountain bike group, City staff, a park support organization, and outdoor retailer REI Co-op.

REI has donated money for new trail signs currently being installed by members of South Texas Off Road Mountain-Bikers (STORM), San Antonio’s premier local mountain bike group.

The signs will help bikers, runners, and hikers navigate more than 20 miles of mostly single-track trails that wind through the park’s mixed terrain of forest, rocky uplands, dense thickets, and open stretches.

“They flow really well,” STORM Vice President Brenda Gonzalez said. “They twist and turn through the trees, and there’s a lot of canopy there. I think you get more of that at McAllister than you do at the other parks.”

The project involves 250 signs, 150 of them full-length posts, with the remaining 100 being markers that can be affixed to trees, said Gonzalez and Jeff Jordan, STORM’s president.

The signs will help users find their way along the 976-acre park’s main trails – Blue Loop, Red Trail, Mud Creek Loop, and Dances With Trees.

The signs and markers will also include waypoints that can be shared with local emergency responders to help find people who run into trouble on the trails, Gonzalez said.

The signs are themselves a sign of the maturing mountain bike scene in San Antonio, where networks of trails have sprouted off of the city’s parks, especially its linear creekway parks. The number of bike shops and other outdoor retailers in the city has also steadily grown.

The older markers along other routes including the blue loop can still be found.
McAllister Park routes, including the Blue Loop, feature older markers as well. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

“I think it’s recently exploded with our greenway system,” said Laura Matthews, president of Friends of McAllister Park. “The increase of people riding bikes is tremendous right now.”

REI opened its only San Antonio store in 2012. Since then, the company has donated nearly $200,000 to benefit outdoor recreation in the city, said Jeanette Honermann, REI’s local director of community outreach and outdoor programs.

Honermann said the REI donation for the signs was $10,000, but it was enough for the job thanks to STORM members being willing to put in the volunteer labor, with support from the City’s Parks and Recreation Department and Friends of McAllister Park.

“It’s not a lot of money,” Honermann said. “Here’s the magic: Through the stewardship of these four organizations, we are managing to sign four different trails.”

Matthews said she’s wanted to have these signs installed at McAllister Park since 2002, after seeing their effectiveness at Government Canyon State Natural Area. She said she presented the idea to the parks department and other City officials, including at bond committee hearings in 2016.

“We just couldn’t quite get it all together,” she said.

Honermann said she heard about the need while talking with Parks Project Manager Sandy Jenkins at an event at Pearsall Park last year. Though STORM members will install the signs, the grant money will go through the parks department’s nonprofit affiliate, the San Antonio Parks Foundation.

“This was truly a collaborative process,” said Jenkins, who said she has heard multiple reports of people getting lost at McAllister.

STORM holds weekly rides on Thursdays either at McAllister, north of the San Antonio International Airport, or O.P. Schnabel Park off Bandera Road on the city’s Northwest side. It also holds work days a few times a year to help maintain the trails at McAllister, Jordan said.

“The hope is that this is the baseline so that we can carry this on to O.P. Schnabel and the Leon Creek Greenway,” Gonzalez said. “We just want to make sure people don’t get lost and reduce some of the user conflict out there.”

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.