Illegal dumping on the Cox Tract south of Pearsall Park.
Illegal dumping on the Cox tract in Pearsall Park as of early February 2019 has since been removed. Credit: Brendan Gibbons / San Antonio Report

A 260-acre public natural area on the south end of Pearsall Park is looking much cleaner after most of the trash piles littering the property have been hauled away.

Crews with the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department have removed roughly 20 truckloads of trash within the past month, said Homer Garcia III, assistant director for parks operations.

“We have pulled out a lot of the debris that’s there,” said Garcia, adding that the waste included tires, household trash, and construction debris like shingles and insulation. They also found an abandoned fiberglass boat on the property.

Garcia said the cleanup happened after Parks officials saw photos and discussion of the illegal dumping in the Rivard Report’s February Trailist column, which focused on Pearsall Park.

The entire park totals 505 acres, though around half is made up of former landfill property that’s now been converted into a skate park, playground, disc golf course, splash pad, and other amenities.

By contrast, the area on the south side of the park, known as the Cox tract, has been mostly left natural, except for a natural gas pipeline easement that skirts one side of the western perimeter. A concrete greenway trail along Leon Creek borders the east side and provides hiking and biking access.

Most of the trash piles on the Cox tract were located near places where it appeared that off-road vehicles had driven onto the pipeline easement and into the brush. One area had been completely scraped clear of trees and brush and was full of tire ruts, bonfire scars, and trash.

Parks crews have since placed large boulders at several access points to deter vehicle traffic, Garcia said. He said that the City’s Code Enforcement department also has been informed of the dumping.

“We wanted to make sure we remedied all of that,” Garcia said. “We care about our parks and want to make sure that they’re safer for the public and don’t become an eyesore.”

Aside from Medina River Natural Area, the Cox tract is one of the largest intact pieces of public natural land on San Antonio’s South Side. Along with trails that cut through the brush, it also has a small pond on the southeastern side where ducks dabble among the reeds.

A double-track trail on the Cox Tract south of Pearsall Park passes near a Spanish dagger plant and other South Texas brush.
A double-track trail on the Cox tract, in the southern portion of the park, passes near a Spanish dagger plant and other South Texas brush. Credit: Brendan Gibbons / San Antonio Report

A 2013 master plan for Pearsall Park calls for most of the tract to remain natural, though baseball, softball, and soccer fields are planned for a section abutting the main area of Pearsall Park. Garcia said that work wasn’t included in recent bond funding for Pearsall Park and would have to be included in a future bond.

Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4), a champion of the park who has a field office there, said that the park could end up being a popular place for trail runners.

“I think the running trail is the lightest touch that we can add to the existing area as it looks today,” he said. “So I think that preserving that natural look is probably best as for what the community would agree to and it still being in use in some way.”

Garcia said that Pearsall Park does not currently have a conservancy or friends group formally set up to advise the city and coordinate volunteer efforts, the way that other parks like McAllister or Brackenridge do. These groups can help guide the park’s use and help maintain it, he said.

“It helps to have stewards in the community of a park property because then they can help promote the proper way for using an urban park or natural area as opposed to the opposite,” Garica 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.