A new greenway trail extension on the Southeast Side follows Salado Creek — as it crosses through a golf course that’s been closed for a decade and could one day house a future veterans’ community. 

A 3.1-mile extension of the Salado Creek Greenway from South Side Lions Park to Southeast Military Drive is now open, marking the most significant trail upgrade since the joining of the Salado and Leon creek greenways at Eisenhower Park in October 2021.

The new extension means the southern portion of Salado Creek Greenway now stretches from Jack White Park at 3803 Seguin Rd. to Southeast Military Drive. The newly built trailhead is across from the future site of Arboretum San Antonio, located at 4226 Southeast Military Dr. 

If the city builds another extension southward, trail-goers can begin to dream in the nearby future of a connection that crosses under Interstate 37, ties into Brooks and, eventually, connects Salado Creek Greenway to the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River.

Salado Creek Greenway- South Side Lions Park to Southeast Military Drive

Offers: Walking, running, cycling
Location: Northern trailhead at South Side Lions Park East (4600 Pecan Valley Dr.). Southern trailhead across from Arboretum San Antonio (4226 SE Military Dr.)
Trail miles: 3.1 miles of concrete trail
Restrooms: Restrooms and drinking water at South Side Lions. Portable toilet and drinking water coming to Southeast Military trailhead.

Visitors can now walk, run or ride bikes on creekside trails, protected and away from traffic, for 11 uninterrupted miles along the East and Southeast Sides. I rode the new section out and back starting at South Side Lions Park on Dec. 22, with clear skies and mid-60s temperatures, just before the Arctic front moved in.

The first half of the trail cuts through the former Pecan Valley Golf Club, its previously manicured 18-hole course now overgrown with grass, brush and small trees. 

The course first opened in 1963 and hosted the PGA Championship in 1968. The course’s owner, Boerne-based Foresight Golf Management, closed the course in 2012 — despite efforts by some golfers who fought to save the private course, which was cherished by some for its PGA history and classic design. Republic Golf Club, another 212-acre Foresight property along Salado Creek just south of Southeast Military, stopped operating in 2020.

Only a decade later after Pecan Valley’s closure, it’s hard to make out the former greens, sand traps and fairways. Grass and leafy plants partially cover a crumbling network of concrete paths with bridges built over the creek. The only structure I noticed was a limestone-walled building with a caved-in roof that someone seemed to have been using as a shelter.

The latest vision for this property is a $200 million master-planned community designed for military veterans known as the Valor Club. Foresight president and real estate developer Dan Pedrotti originally pitched the idea, later partnering with developers Irwin Deutch and Bill Deutch of Century Pacific and former Haven for Hope CEO George Block.

Developers envisioned a complex designed for veterans but open to the public, with health, fitness and sports facilities, an entertainment complex and retail space, according to this June 2021 report by the San Antonio Report’s development reporter, Shari Biediger.  So far, the only new construction in the area has been the Masters Ranch apartment complex, which has a fence line that the trail passes just north of Southcross Boulevard. 

The trail skirts alongside the Masters Ranch apartment complex, originally part of a larger vision for a master-planned community targeted at military veterans.
The trail skirts alongside the Masters Ranch apartment complex, originally part of a larger vision for a master-planned community designed for military veterans. Credit: Courtesy / Brendan Gibbons

I enjoyed riding through the former golf course’s open meadows and large trees, a contrast from the closed canopy of the majority of the southern Salado Creek Greenway. After passing below Southcross, the trail veers away from the creek for a bit, passing by a medical rehabilitation center. It follows the tree line before plunging back into the forest at the edge of the golf course. 

The creek itself looks almost like a rural stream in some places, marred only by the seemingly endless mounds of trash that pile up along its banks. In other places, water flows clear along a pebbled bottom, banks lined with plants and trees, and deep pools topped with lily pads. Almost everywhere, you see at least one piece of plastic or Styrofoam, if not an enormous pile of debris. 

Trash dumps like this are a frequent sight along San Antonio's greenways.
Trash dumps like this are a frequent sight along San Antonio’s greenways. Credit: Courtesy / Brendan Gibbons

Having cleaned many locations on Salado Creek with River Aid San Antonio, I’m no longer surprised to see piles of waste in these areas, even things like full paint buckets or car batteries. Hopefully the trail access will encourage volunteer cleanups on this stretch of creek that’s never allowed public access.

South of the golf course, the trail closely follows the creek along city-owned property for the rest of the route. Under the canopy, I saw and heard plenty of birds, including a hawk that perched only 20 feet away. It took off deeper into the trees as I hit the brakes to try to grab a photo.

When I visited, workers had already finished a trailhead connecting to the residential neighborhood of Valley Vista Drive and were still working on a second that appeared to connect to Ashbrook Drive. The south trailhead includes water fountains, a bike repair station, bike racks, trash cans, benches and space for a portable toilet. The city opened it so recently that a push broom used to sweep the freshly poured concrete still leaned against a sign.

Over the coming years, I’m hoping that we see the full Salado Creek Greenway connected through Fort Sam Houston. When the trail is connected, it’ll be possible to ride around 55 miles across the northern two thirds of San Antonio from Southeast Military to the Dora Jordan trailhead on the Leon Creek Greenway on West Military Drive. 

The city hasn’t announced any upcoming work on a north-south Salado connection, but public records show it is acquiring more land south of Southeast Military Drive to continue pushing Salado Creek Greenway southward. Republic Golf deeded a strip of land to the city through its closed course in June 2021. 

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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.