The Where I Live series aims to showcase our diverse city and region by spotlighting its many vibrant neighborhoods. Each week a local resident invites us over and lets us in on what makes their neighborhood special. Have we been to your neighborhood yet? Get in touch to share your story.

It’s hard not to feel like part of the community in Mahncke Park.

With its passionate neighborhood association, active Facebook group and frequent newsletters, residents are always up to date with what’s going on and invited to join in — whether it’s a block party, yard sale, yoga in the garden or a primal scream.

When my family first moved to the area, what was important to me was being close to Trinity University, where I work as a professor. I wanted not just a short commute but also to be able to be involved with the Trinity community and attend all the different events. In Mahncke Park, I gained another beautiful community with so many opportunities to get involved.

The first way I got involved was by delivering the newsletter to neighbors on my street. My son and I would walk door to door, and it was a great way to get to know everyone. I’ve been the block captain for five years and now share that responsibility with another family on the block. Our kids mostly carry out the newsletter delivery duties now.

Early on in my time as block captain, when I was still getting to know everyone, I learned about an empty lot owned by the city and of talks of turning it into a community garden. Even though I was new to the neighborhood, I quickly became part of a group of about 20 neighbors who worked to establish the Mahncke Park Community Garden. We became a nonprofit within the first year, and I took on the role of treasurer. It was important to me for the garden to flourish and continue to provide this community space and service, so I sought grants and other funding that helped us get started and maintain the space. 

The garden was especially important in helping our neighborhood be more inclusive. Many of our neighbors are renting and don’t have a space to do their own gardening, so being able to provide this space and also using it to host events for us to gather, has been really meaningful. We’re now in our sixth year and it makes me so proud to see what we’ve accomplished as a community.

Each neighbor has their own labeled garden bed that they are free to plant and share how they please in the Mahncke Park Community Garden Wednesday.
Each neighbor has their own labeled garden bed that they are free to plant and share how they please in the Mahncke Park Community Garden. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

As someone who loves nature, I appreciate all the green spaces we have access to nearby. There’s the San Antonio Botanical Garden and Brackenridge Park, both within walking distance. We live right on Mahncke Park, and when the wildflowers bloom each year, it’s such a sight to see. Neighbors plant the flowers in memory of lost loved ones, and it’s a lovely tribute.

I also learned that we have the Acequia Madre running underneath our street, which feels like having the heartbeat of our city beneath our feet.

Though we’re not officially in a historic district, many of the homes in the area were built in the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s. I love the design features of homes from this era, and we were lucky enough to find a home that was big enough for our family, but not too big that I’d spend all my time cleaning it.

I love that we get our mail delivered right to our door and we have organics recycling — and that we know our mail carrier and trash collector. Another bonus is the loquat tree in the yard. When we were looking for a house, I thought back to my childhood growing up with a pecan tree in the backyard, and I knew I wanted a yard with a fruit tree.

When it comes to dining, we have plenty to choose from. Though the pandemic hasn’t been kind to our local businesses and we’ve lost quite a few, many have weathered the storm and we’ve even seen some new ones pop up. We love Chef Jason Dady’s Jardín restaurant at the San Antonio Botanical Garden, Charm City Sno Balls, Hung Fong, Smoke Shack and The Hayden. Chocollazo or a cookie from W.D. Deli are always a treat.

As much as I love my neighborhood, there are certainly still challenges and concerns. Rising taxes make it difficult to make needed repairs on some of our older homes, drivers speeding through make it unsafe for pedestrians and children playing outside, and being in a commercial corridor means we could see more businesses spread out from Broadway into our residential areas. But we’re a community that’s always involved, so I know our concerns will be addressed.

And that’s what makes Mahncke Park so special. We’re a community in every sense of the word.

Heather Haynes Smith, Ph.D. is mom to a five-year-old who just started kindergarten in San Antonio ISD and an associate professor at Trinity University. She teaches courses on learning disabilities, reading,...