When it comes to the network of municipal parks bordering Cibolo Creek on the northeastern edge of Bexar County, the biggest is also the most beautiful.
Crescent Bend Nature Park is made up of 190 acres just south of a particularly twisty section of Cibolo Creek, which forms the border of Bexar and Guadalupe counties. The creek tends to flood epically and has over the years become buffered by a string of municipally-run parks on either side.
Of these parks, Crescent Bend has the best scenery. Its short 1.6 miles of gravel trails makes it a good place to go for a quick walk or bike ride if you live or work nearby. The City of Schertz, which operates the park on land owned by Bexar County, appears to be working hard to maintain the trails. I didn’t see a single wrapper or can littering the trails or the creek.
The circular trail is short but satisfying, perfect for a quick walk or for runners to make multiple loops. It’s surprising how much natural variety visitors can experience on one circuit through the park.
The trail winds through riparian forest and grassland before dipping down towards Cibolo Creek. I visited in the heat of the day this weekend and still found plenty of shade from the pecan, oak, and hackberry trees.
But the trees that catch the eye the most are twin palms jutting up from the mesquite brush and prairie. As nonnatives to this part of Texas, they look out of place here, but they’re actually reminders of the land’s previous life.
Crescent Bend was once a neighborhood called Lakewood Acres, until Cibolo Creek flooding in the late 1990s caused severe damage to multiple homes, according to the webpage of supporters known as Friends of Crescent Bend Nature Park. After being being designated a flood zone, the land ended up in the county’s hands.
Since then, nature has reclaimed most of the former neighborhood, except for the small grid of streets that runs through the park.
Cibolo Creek is the reason for the park’s existence, but it’s also what makes it stand out. A prominent tributary to the San Antonio River, the Cibolo is a waterway that gets little attention, despite the several parks near Schertz that offer creek access.
Technically, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality considers this segment of Cibolo Creek clean enough to be swim in, but the Trailist doesn’t recommend it. The water doesn’t look all that tempting, anyway.
This segment of creek suffers from low oxygen levels and elevated nutrients, likely the result of sewage plant discharges, the improper use of fertilizers, and organic matter washed into the river in stormwater runoff, according to a San Antonio River Authority report.
Algae is a tell-tale sign of this kind of pollution. But the green scum choking parts of the creek doesn’t seem to deter the people who gather at a low water crossing just outside the park to fish.
That local fishing hole will likely persist even as the environment around the creek changes. During my visit, the clang and rumble of construction equipment rose from beyond the trees, where excavators and bulldozers were moving earth to convert former farmland into a subdivision.
Overall, the park might not be a regional destination, but it’s still be an easy place to get outside for those who live nearby. That’s going to be especially important as new homes and businesses continue to draw more people to the edge of Cibolo Creek.