Park plan a Win-Win or a Last Chance?

Park plan could be a chance to turn things around for green urban space on the North Side.

Few things in this life are better than the elusive Win-Win Situation.

In a Win-Win, everyone benefits and nobody feels cheated. People smile when they turn up a Win-Win. They emerge filled with happiness, good will and the belief that, just maybe, not every found nickel is wooden.

It's rare, almost unheard of, but when it does happen, it's really cool.

San Antonio could be due for one. According to city leaders, the idea of turning the Voelcker family ranch into a park could be a really big Win-Win for the city.

As reported on the front page of Wednesday's Express-News, the city is looking at buying 311 acres of land from a family trust in the ultradeveloped North Central area. The total price tag is in the neighborhood of $45 million — money that's said to be headed toward medical research in San Antonio.

How great is that? The city gets a park, and the money stays with San Antonio.

The coolest part of this deal, however, is the prospective park — a big block of green in an area packed with development. It's important because while the North Side has bookstores and many a Best Buy, recreational outdoor spaces aren't as lucrative or convenient.

According to figures provided by the city, the area classified as the Far North sub-area has only 7.9 acres of public park land per 1,000 citizens. That's almost half of the national average for large cities, 16 acres per 1,000 residents. Along the same lines, Dallas boasts 18.2 acres, and Phoenix comes in at a generous 28 acres.

Green space didn't seem like it was in such short supply, until — yikes! — it was. Not that we noticed.

The reality, for most San Antonians, is that Mother Nature isn't part of our everyday life. Most of us don't visit her on weekends, and a lot of us are estranged, not even on speaking terms.

Nothing personal; we're just really busy.

That's the reality of modern life. There's work — both in and out of the house. There's social activities and obligations, most of them indoors. There are errands. And there are Pilates classes, stationery bicycles and treadmills hooked up to TVs that keep us in the loop and bug-free.

And while we'd like to spend some time hiking Government Canyon State Natural Area or barbecuing fajitas at Brackenridge Park, it's hard to block out the time needed to go so far out of the way.

But what if Mother Nature set up shop just a little closer? What if an hour at the park — walking, playing with kids or reading a book on a bench — could be squeezed in after work and dinner? Maybe it's bringing the mountain to Mohammad, but that's the path in which modern life has taken us.

And who cares, anyway, as long as there's a park available, especially for the little San Antonians? Not since Opie Taylor have kids been outdoorsy, but it would be goofy to blame it all on video games and stranger danger. There needs to be a place to play. Where are today's kids supposed to skip stones — the big pothole in the Wal-Mart parking lot?

If all goes well and the creek don't rise, this could be a chance to turn things around for green urban space on the North Side.

The city says the Voelcker ranch is one of the last undeveloped tracts of at least 300 acres in North San Antonio. That means such an opportunity probably won't crop up again, especially with South Texas real estate's escalating charm.

Know what's more elusive than the Win-Win Situation? The Second Chance.

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Phil Hardberger Park West
8400 NW Military Hwy., 78231

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13203 Blanco Road, 78216

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