February 2018 edit: Enjoy this look at TTAT past from our archives, then register for TTAT 2018, coming to Austin May 2-4. Questions? Call us at 512-476-7433.
Brandon Ross, Special Projects Manager for San Antonio Parks and Recreation, spoke about the Linear Creekway Parks Development Program at the TTAT Conference. Their mission is to enhance the quality of life for San Antonio residents and visitors through a series of interconnected trails that run throughout the city. Their goals include creating the building blocks for a bicycle/pedestrian system, but also seek to preserve open space and riparian connectivity for wildlife habitats and increase the effectiveness of the city’s storm water management.
The system is under construction, thanks to a tax initiative that has raised the bulk of the $116 million in funding the program has received over the last twelve years and the efforts of a small but dedicated staff. Thirty-five miles have been completed to date, with a goal of one hundred miles circling the whole city in the next few years, ideally connecting to each other. “We need to start thinking about how to connect all of these. We want a system where you can ride and ride,” Ross said.
The goal for construction is sustainability, both in design and location. They’re building with concrete where possible, and anchor the paths two feet under ground to avoid erosion. They aim to have minimal environmental impact on trees and the understory while incorporating interpretive features and making sure the trails are accessible to all users. They have received recommendations from the San Antonio Disability Access office. There is adequate signage, mile markers, flood warnings, and connections to neighborhoods and commercial destinations.
Their efforts have been noticed, and the system is busy. “It’s packed. I wish we’d put in more parking,” Ross said. “It’s a regional draw, as well. There are people coming from all over the place. At the end of the day, the more people that use this thing, the more successful it is.”
These efforts to create a bicycle and pedestrian culture from scratch, and more, were addressed at the conference. San Antonio has recognized a problem and chosen to meet it head-on, with solutions that would provide lasting lifestyle change for its citizens. They have begun to create functional, inviting infrastructure that does more than support current cyclists and pedestrians. They are trying to convince residents that active transportation and recreation is something everyone can do, and can do in San Antonio. And if it worked in San Antonio, then why not in your city, too?