Solar panels at Confluence Park show signs of damage on Monday, April 30. Credit: Brendan Gibbons / San Antonio Report

When Confluence Park opened to the public in early March, those who poured time and money into the project hailed it as a new hub of environmental learning and appreciation.

Less than eight weeks later, the solar panels in the small array atop the park’s classroom space were smashed in what the San Antonio River Foundation’s executive director called “a small-minded act by a select few.”

The vandalism occurred late on April 25 or in the early morning hours of April 26, the foundation’s executive director Robert Amerman said in an email Monday.

“We have filed a police report and are pursuing the perpetrators based on security and crime scene information,” Amerman said. “We are also working with our neighborhood stakeholders who have been very helpful and supportive.”

On Monday, each of the 38 panels still showed evidence of being smashed with a heavy, blunt object.

“This is an act of individuals without self-respect,” Amerman said. “Without respect for families, neighbors, and the larger culture that makes San Antonio such a beautiful place to live and share.”

Located about 2 miles south of downtown, the park at 310 W. Mitchell St. lies just upstream from where San Pedro Creek joins the San Antonio River. It also features native plant gardens, a rainwater harvesting system, and connections to the larger Mission Reach trail system.

Designers intended for the park to be net-zero on energy use, thanks to the 14.4-kilowatt solar array.

All 38 solar panels at Confluence Park were allegedly vandalized in late April, according to park officials. Credit: Brendan Gibbons / San Antonio Report

“It’s so sad because it’s such a great community project everyone worked so hard on,” said Patrick Attwater, president and CEO of One80 Solar.

San Antonio-based Mission Solar, its parent company OCI, and One80 Solar donated labor and materials to the solar project, Attwater said.

The cost to replace them would likely be around 90 cents to $1 per watt, adding up to between $13,000 and $15,000, according to three different solar installers contacted by the Rivard Report.

However, the panel system is insured, Attwater said, although he said that he did not know specifics.

Amerman would not specify when the panels would be replaced, saying that he and colleagues are reviewing “additional system security augmentation” that “will be in place prior to replacing the panels.”

He also said he “cannot speak to” whether security cameras captured the incident, citing an ongoing San Antonio Police Department investigation.

Asked if one or multiple people smashed the panels, he said, “We know, but we cannot speak to this while SAPD’s efforts are underway.”

The Rivard Report contacted SAPD public information officer Jennifer Rodriguez on Monday afternoon seeking an incident report and information about the investigation.

Rodriguez responded via email and said police officials were not able to locate an incident report. She did not respond to additional questions or a followup email.

In his initial email, Amerman suggested the vandalism was “part of a larger spree in the area ranging across schools and parks.”

“We do not believe this event was directed at Confluence Park specifically,” he said. “The park was merely caught up in a larger path of mindless destruction.”

It wasn’t clear as of Monday which schools and parks he was referring to. Communications staff with the City, San Antonio River Authority, and San Antonio Independent School District said their properties in the area suffered no damage that night.

Bexar County spokeswoman Monica Ramos shared a picture of a broken lock on the door of a likely empty storage room at Mission County Park about three miles south of Confluence Park. Nothing was stolen, she said.

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Brendan Gibbons

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