Vision of Park Unveiled

The master plan for Phil Hardberger Park was presented Wednesday night at the San Antonio Jewish Community Center.

Consultants Stephen Stimson and Julie Bargman described the 311-acre former dairy farm as a “precious parcel,” and presented the future park as a mix of oak savanna, Texas brushland and oak woodland intermixing around clusters of development.

About 25 percent of the land would be dedicated to education centers, playgrounds, playing fields and picnic areas, with the rest set aside for trails and habitat protection.

Bargman said she and her consultants recognized the importance of San Antonio’s “rituals of holiday picnicking,” so the plan calls for plenty of car-accessible tables for those who wish to dine outside but not walk too far.

The plan will be presented next Thursday for a vote by the City Council.

Councilman Louis Rowe, who represents the district where the park will be built, described the yearlong process leading to the presentation as “creative friction” and encouraged members of the public to speak up if they had any concerns.

“This is the last time you will have a chance for input on this,” he said.

Many of the finer points of the park — such as the number of parking spaces, the surface material of the trails and what type of activities will be allowed in the play areas — will be decided in further public meetings. But the plan represents the city’s highest resolution of the vision for the park and will set the tone for its development.

“The city is very excited about this plan,” said Krystal Strong, San Antonio Parks and Recreation special project manager, “and (is) looking forward to the opportunity to making the master plan become a reality.”

The park, which voters agreed to as part of a $550 million bond issue last May, has been strongly advocated by Mayor Phil Hardberger.

Those in the audience wanted a few things cleared up before the city proceeds.

Carter Dennis, who has attended every meeting since last summer, was there to press for a skate park. At 32, he wanted to make sure there was something for kids other than a jungle gym. He brought along with him computer drawings of a new park in Chile that incorporates landscaping into the tabletops, rails and half-pipes. “We can fit it in with the theme of the park,” he said.

George Longoria, who represents the South Texas Off Road Mountain Bikers, said he had been told mountain bikes would be allowed, then that they wouldn’t be. He wanted a clarification.

“There is a bit of not just misinformation but disinformation,” he said.

The city officials and consults continued to answer questions into the night trying to explain the plan.

Most of the concerns voiced were for projects that won’t be built until funding is found — and that could take years.

The lack of funding includes the Land Bridge, a 175-foot-wide bridge designed so deer can safely cross Wurzbach Parkway could be the crown jewel of what the city is billing as a world-class urban park. If built, it would be the first in the country, and is molded after a similar project in Banff National Park in Canada that allows grizzly bears and moose to pass over an eight-lane highway.