No off-road biking in Phil Hardberger Park, designers say

Off-road mountain biking enthusiasts will not be allowed to ride freely throughout Phil Hardberger Park's 311 acres, the park's designers have determined, but some bicycle riding will be permissible.

"In terms of bicycling, there would be an opportunity on trails for recreational biking, but mountain biking is encouraged on the Salado Creekway program, said Krystal Strong, special projects manager for the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. "We want to be able to preserve the natural landscape of the park."

Last month, Julie Bargmann of D.I.R.T. studio and Stephen Stimson of Stephen Stimson Associates unveiled a preliminary master plan for the park, planned on Max and Minnie Voelcker's former dairy farm on the eastside of Northwest Military Highway at Wurzbach Parkway. The plan was based on months of field research and concepts the landscape architects determined from much public input.

"We're at a point now where the direction has been set, so we're not looking at redesigning the features at this point," Strong said.

Strong recently received a letter from the San Antonio Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization's Bicycle Mobility Advisory Committee that stresses the organization's interests in the new park. It states that BMAC "is requesting the inclusion of bicycle facilities and amenities in the park's master plan," and that the designers consider both on-road and off-road cycling.

"We're just asking that when they make the trails in the park, they do allow enough space so that it's available for joint use," said Lydia Kelly, BMAC spokeswoman. "We would like cyclists to be able to ride their bikes from home, through the park and then back home."

Kelly said that so far, BMAC is satisfied with the cycling opportunities allowed at Phil Hardberger Park; so to are avid mountain bikers like San Antonio Friends of the Parks President Ray Knox.

"What the designers are concerned about is people getting off the trail," he said. "Where Phil Hardberger Park runs into the Linear Creek, you're going to have areas that are very conducive to wanting to get off-road with your bikes. We expressed that there will be a need to have those off-road areas because it's a very popular sport."

According to Knox, Salado Creek is a dream-course for mountain bikers, who prefer rough terrain filled with thrills to roads and flat trails, and he has been involved in the planning of the Linear Creek system that will eventually create a massive, connected system of thin parks spanning the creeks.

"We need pocket areas for mountain bikers: it's going to happen, so why not put in places for it so you can control it," Knox said. "And the designers have been real accommodating and have listened."