Robert Rivard

Let’s complete the Labor Day Weekend with a Monday evening recreational learning ride exploring how engineers move water up, down, under and through San Antonio for our protection and our enjoyment.

Something Monday is giving the experts a well-earned day off on Labor Day. We’ll go it alone this time, starting at the Pearl’s B-cycle station near Il Sogno restaurant. We’ll meet up at 6:15 and leave at 6:30 p.m.

The Main Plaza ride that was rained out last week will be held later in September, and folks from the YMCA will host us on Sept. 9 – stay tuned for details.

This will be a safe, fairly straight ride for any concerned beginners. Cyclists on their own bikes should have front and rear lights for riding after sunset to conform with local ordinance. Sunset will occur at 7:27 p.m. B-cycles come equipped with lights. Bring water. We also recommend you bring and wear a helmet, but that’s an individual choice.

The Pearl Brewery's B-cycle station. Photo by Tom Trevino.
The Pearl Brewery’s B-cycle station. Photo by Tom Trevino.

Something Monday riders of all levels are welcome. We will have a B-cycle representative present to demonstrate how easily the bike share program works for hesitant first-timers. For first timers, Something Monday was started to give people a new way to meet and be active on Monday. We pedal to an interesting destination, learn a little about the great city we live and work in, and then we meet up for an optional post-ride refreshment and/or bite to eat.

We will ride from the Pearl on Broadway south to our final destination near Roosevelt Park on Lone Star Boulevard just of South St. Mary’s Street, with stops along the way. That’s about four miles total on the bike. Riders who want to ride a shorter distance can make arrangements to be be met in Southtown.

We’ll check out the Pearl’s ampitheater before taking off. It’s surprising how many people don’t know it’s there,  but it’s the scene of some great music events hosted by the Pearl throughout the year. A larger, 600-seat ampitheater  will be the outdoor showcase of the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts when it opens in September, but right now the area is a hard hat zone and not suitable for a Something Monday visit.

From the Pearl we will proceed south along the Museum Reach of the San Antonio River to check out the Brooklyn Avenue Lock and Dam. Click here to watch an animated video created by the talented Mike Fisher of the Express-News.

If we are fortunate, one of the River Walk barges will be passing by and we’ll get to see the lock in action, and listen in to the barge captain’s monologue. It’s amazing to see this gravity-fed rise and fall of the river. There are no pumps moving the water up and down, only gates opening and closing and gravity doing its work. The river rises or falls nine feet, I believe, to allow passage of the barges.

Many mayors had a hand in the restoration of the San Antonio River over the last few decades, but including the lock and dam in the $72 million Museum Reach-Urban Segment improvement project, I’m told, was due to the tenacity of former Mayor Lila Cockrell.

Because of the increasing elevation from Lexington Ave. to Josephine Street, a lock and dam complex was constructed so that barges can travel from the downtown River Walk to the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Pearl Brewery. Photo courtesy of EdwardsAquifer.net.
Lock and dam construction in 2008 on the Museum Reach. Because of the increasing elevation from Lexington Ave. to Josephine Street, a lock and dam complex was constructed so that barges can travel from the downtown River Walk to the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Pearl Brewery. Photo courtesy of EdwardsAquifer.net. Credit: Courtesy / Edwards Aquifer

Traffic should be thin on Broadway since Monday is a holiday, so we’ll head south through downtown and into Southtown. South Alamo Street at Commerce Street is closed for street repairs right now, and if remains closed over the long weekend, we will take the S. Presa Street detour. No big deal.

Our destination is the San Antonio River Tunnel on Lone Star Boulevard. Unless the weather undergoes a magical transformation between now and Monday, things should be fairly clam at the tunnel. But we’ll dismount and talk about the city’s invisible network of underground flood control tunnels that keep people safe in times of intense rain and flooding, as we experienced most recently on May 25.

Courtesy of Gregg Eckhardt.
Courtesy of Gregg Eckhardt.

New residents and visitors often are surprised to observe constant water levels, even during a storm, along the River Walk. That’s due to a number of flood control measures, perhaps none more important than the San Antonio River Tunnel, which runs for three miles from Josephine Street to its outlet on the river at Lone Star Boulevard, and carries flood waters 150 feet underground that otherwise would flood the downtown. The tunnel was begun in 1987, the same year that saw completion of the Nueva Street Dam, Bridge and Marina. The tunnel was dedicated 10 years later in 1997.

A second tunnel, the San Pedro Creek Tunnel runs 6,000 feet, or more than one mile, underground, on the city’s near-Westside, beginning around I-10 West near Santa Rosa Street with its outlet north of  Guadalupe Street. San Pedro Creek itself was diverted and converted into a concrete culvert through downtown, but Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff recently announced an ambitious, $125 million public works project to restore the creek through downtown.

All that construction tying up traffic along Hildebrand Avenue and Broadway, where the two intersect? That’s a $15.5 million City of San Antonio flood control and roadway improvement project that will be completed in 2014.

Something Monday riders who want to do their homework can read, “Amid Cycles of Drought, San Antonio is Flash-Flood Alley,” a story I posted in the wake of the damaging late May rains and flooding.

Floodwaters gush out of the San Antonio River Tunnel outlet at Lone Star Boulevard Saturday morning. Decades ago, these waters would have flooded the city. Photo by Robert Rivard
Floodwaters gush out of the San Antonio River Tunnel outlet at Lone Star Boulevard Saturday morning. Decades ago, these waters would have flooded the city. Photo by Robert Rivard

After our stop at the Tunnel, We can meander through historic King William on the way home, if riders so choose, or drop by the Nueva Street Bridge and Dam, and then head back toward the Pearl.

King William Regata paddlers floating in the San Antonio River at the Nueva Street Bridge & Dam. Photo by Robert Rivard.
King William Regata paddlers floating in the San Antonio River at the Nueva Street Bridge & Dam. Photo by Robert Rivard.

Something Monday will conclude our holiday excursion with a stop at La Gloria at 100 E. Grayson St. within the Pearl Brewery complex, Chef Johnny Hernandez’ (of True Flavors Catering and The Fruitería) first restaurant which opened in 2010. So we will start and finish along the banks of the San Antonio River.

Follow Robert Rivard on Twitter @rivardreport or on Facebook.

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San Antonio Report Staff

This article was assembled by various members of the San Antonio Report staff.