Planning by San Antonio River Authority (SARA) on the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project is moving towards 70% completion and the consensus is, it’s doable.
“It’s never wrong until it’s drawn,” quipped Steve Tillotson, Muñoz & Company architect and one of the Design Team Consultants.
Twenty-four interested citizens attended the San Pedro Creek Subcommittee meeting June 11 at the SARA office. Their next meeting will be July 9 and is open to the public.
Responses from the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project survey, taken after the May 30 Open House at St. Henry Catholic Church Hall, show the majority of people favors the plans.
“The negative responses are less than 20%,” Tillotson said. “That’s a wonderful design check.”
“I think that 18 or 20% of the people didn’t like Hugman’s design at the time,” Tillotson said. R.H.H. Hugman designed the River Walk built in the 1930s.
According to the San Pedro Creek survey, mass transit is one of the considerations in need of more attention. Abigail Rodriguez, VIA manager for facility programs, spoke of their conversations with SARA, the City, and Centro Plaza.
There are six street crossings of the San Pedro Creek on active bus routes, Rodriguez said. VIA wants to provide an interchange for waterway walkers and bus riders. “We want to make it convenient,” she said.
About 200 people attended the informational session moderated by Robert Rivard at the Southwest School of Art on May 28 and another 70 attended the Open House on May 30. Project designers were disappointed that only 113 took part in the survey.
The survey showed that the public likes the cultural aspects of the plans but doesn’t want the story to start at 1716. Residents want to know about the Native Americans before the Spaniards.
Linda Ximenes, of Ximenes & Associates and a descendant of the Tap Pilam group of Native Americans, said the survey shows that San Antonio citizens appreciate nature as well.
“They want more natural design features,” she said, “a focus on water and green space.”
Ximenes said survey results show that world travelers come to see what is unique to San Antonio. Survey respondents want to avoid being “generically cosmopolitan,” she said.
“The plan should be thoroughly vetted by artists and historians,” Ximenes said, and others agreed.
Tillotson said John Phillip Santos will document the history of the San Pedro Creek area so artists can tell the story.
“Santos will have his document complete by July,” Tillotson said. “This will help inform design participants.”
Ximenes said the public is concerned about safety, lighting, and parking along the San Pedro Creek. She said some fear interest in the project may diminish before all phases are completed and that the flood control purpose may be underestimated. Shade and San Antonio’s toasty temperatures are other issues.
“Metal gets hot, so there were those concerns,” Ximenes said.
Residents don’t want a theme park feel, she said, and Tillotson allayed those fears.
“Our firm doesn’t have a style,” he said. “Everything we do is original.”
The survey revealed folks want a pleasant place, Ximenes said. They want a dog park and grackle control.
“They want more opportunities for family activities,” she said. “They want more rest and recreational features.”
Ximenes said the survey showed concern about rising property values, gentrification, drainage measures, energy efficiency, and low impact development.
“A couple of people lamented the lack of connection to San Pedro Park,” she said.
Jerry Geyer, co-chair of the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project, said connection to the park is an idea that comes up every meeting.
“Something could be done to connect to San Pedro Park,” Geyer said, “but it’s not within our scope.”
He said other groups could work on a plan to connect the creek revitalization project to the park. “The idea does have potential,” Geyer said.
The survey revealed concerns about maintenance costs yet another issue loomed large. People want wider bike trails.
The Design Team said this aspect is not feasible. Though some parts of the trail will be accessible for bicyclists, it will not be for commuters.
“It’s not really compatible with bicycles,” Geyer said.
Plans for the San Pedro Creek will bridge the present to the past – and more. When it’s completed in 2018, in time for the tricentennial celebration of San Antonio, it will link the communities along its banks.
“The story should be told by the people involved in the project,” Geyer said. “We have three years.”
*Featured/top image: A worker walks by a waterfall on the San Pedro Creek near the Bill Miller Bar-B-Q facility on Cesar Chavez. Photo by Don Mathis.