The best measure of the May 15 grand opening of Phil Hardberger Park may have been a question overheard from a little boy as his family was leaving the playground.
“Mom, can we come back next week?” the boy asked his mother.
"We sure can,” answered Kathy Thomas.
That type of exchange is what the park’s namesake envisioned when he led the City of San Antonio’s effort to buy the former dairy farm.
“If you didn’t make it out here today, don’t worry,” former Mayor Phil Hardberger said at the grand opening ceremony, “you’ll have the next several hundred years to enjoy it.”
Hardberger put the day in historical context, comparing the estimated 2,500 people who attended the grand opening to the crowd that gathered 111 years ago for the opening of Brackenridge Park. At 311 acres, Hardberger Park is second in size only to Brackenridge among city parks, which opened in 1899.
“Nature endures. People don’t,” he said. “Even Central Park, as tremendous a resource as it is to New York City, is only 850 acres. This park is truly a gift to the people of San Antonio.”
The initial Phase 1A includes 1.5 miles of trails, which connect to the Salado Creek Greenway; a treelined parking lot made of permeable crushed granite; a 1.8 acre dog park -- the city’s largest -- with separate sections for large and small dogs and an elaborate two-story doghouse; a large play scape with a rubberized surface; picnic facilities; and an oak savanna restoration pilot project.
Of course, the work is now just beginning. Phase 1A amounts to only 1/5th of the park; the plan is to open another phase of the park each of the next five years. The City of San Antonio’s Parks and Recreation Department will execute the concepts in the park’s master plan and the Hardberger Park Conservancy will raise private money to support the city’s effort. Phil and Linda Hardberger have already kicked it off with a $100,000 contribution.