Minutes from the Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy Annual Meeting & Volunteer Fair
At the PHP Conservancy Annual Meeting & Volunteer Fair in February, Phil Hardberger, President of the Conservancy, presented plans for the park's proposed Land Bridge. As the illustrations showed, the Land Bridge will be more than a means of crossing from one side of the park to the other; it will be a public work of art and a continuation of the park’s natural beauty. Former Mayor Hardberger said that the Conservancy has just begun to pursue funding for the $25 million project.
Robert Rinn, Assistant Manager of Natural Areas for S.A. Parks & Recreation, followed with an explanation of the mission of a natural area park. Natural area parks strive to manage natural resources, while allowing visitors to experience nature. Aside from the proposed Land Bridge, Mr. Rinn said that planned improvements to Hardberger Park include a new parking lot with about 55 parking spaces on the Blanco side of the park, and $1 million for trail improvements this year.
He reported that the 1800’s Texas stone house on the historic homestead was rehabilitated and is now home to the Conservancy office. Park staff continues to work on the native landscaping around the house. He thanked the Conservancy for all the attention it brings to the park. “It’s a world class park,” he said, “and we continue to make it better.”
Gail Gallegos, Nature Preserve Officer, spoke about the many ways to get connected to the parks and to nature through volunteering. Ms. Gallegos explained that she manages the facilities and land management projects of Hardberger Park, Walker Ranch Park and the Salado Creek Greenway trail that connects the two parks. She said that natural area parks have staff designated to and located in the park, which makes it easier for park visitors to get to know the staff and to get involved. She introduced representatives of various volunteer programs in Hardberger Park.
Meredith Tilley, S.A. Parks & Recreation Volunteer Services & Program Coordinator, oversees the trail management and volunteer projects for the city.
Wendy Leonard, Park Naturalist, is responsible for park conservation and land management projects. She also conducts nature surveys. She oversees the Weed Wednesday program, which is geared toward replacing invasive non-native plants in the park with native plants.
Susan Campbell is the Education Coordinator and oversees programs for toddlers to adults. In addition to the weekday children’s classes, she plans the first Saturday programs.
Alamo Area Master Naturalists (AAMN) call Hardberger Park home. Master Naturalists started in San Antonio and has grown into a state wide organization. To become a Master Naturalist, a person must complete the 10-week training. After completing the training, the focus is on volunteering.
AAMN is responsible for the third Saturday program in Hardberger Park. Many of the members are also Weed Wednesday volunteers. Matt Farley was on hand to discuss membership in the AAMN and Kim Carrell answered questions about volunteering in the education programs.
The Sierra Club presents monthly Nature Walks in the west side of the park. Each month’s walk has a different theme, such as wild flowers or birds, depending on the season.
Greeters represent the Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy in both sides of the park each Saturday. They answer questions from park visitors and share information about the Conservancy. A docent program is being developed as an expansion of the greeter program. Docents will be trained to lead tours of the park. Chuck Saxer, John Linkhart, Colleen Waguespack and Geoff Leech were on hand to answer questions about both.
Ms. Gallegos said that the staff at Hardberger Park is extremely dedicated to the park and appreciates the help of volunteers. Volunteers are an integral part of the savanna restoration and of projects such as the landscaping around the 1800’s stone house. She encouraged everyone at the meeting to visit with the volunteer representatives and find a way to get involved.
Meredith Tilley runs the volunteer programs for all of S.A. Parks & Recreation. She explained that she works with all of the 240 plus parks in the city, but that she was at the meeting to talk about “Trail Watch” volunteers. The greenway trails are multi-use trails for walkers, bikers and people with their pets. It is important that trail etiquette is observed so that everyone can enjoy the trails safely.
Trail Watch volunteers watch for violations or unsafe practices by people on the greenway trails and remind those people of the rules. They are ambassadors for the trail safety program. There are about 50 volunteers in the program and there have been about 10 trainings since the program was begun last year. Volunteers represent all of the groups that use the trails and are asked to dedicate at least four hours a month. A background check is required. The next Trail Watch orientation is April 29, 2015. (E-mail Meredith for more information)
Margaret Kanyusik, a member of the PHP Conservancy Board, told the audience that the Conservancy will participate in the Big Give S.A. The Conservancy participated in the first Big Give S.A. in 2014 and was thrilled to raise more than $23,000, because those who use and love the park gave. The money was used to rehabilitate the stone house and to support the education programs in the park. She encouraged everyone to spread the word about the park and the Big Give S.A. through e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter. Every dollar received through the Big Give S.A. goes back into the park.
Chuck Saxer, Vice President of the PHP Conservancy Board, closed the meeting by thanking everyone for attending. He thanked those who are members of the park for their continued support and asked them to encourage their neighbors to join. He announced that members-only events are being planned, and the next one is an open house in May at the Historic Homestead. He thanked those who volunteer regularly in the park and encouraged everyone to visit the volunteer representatives.
A brief question and answer period followed and then the meeting was adjourned. People then had the opportunity to visit with the volunteer representatives.