Have Path, Will Travel

In an urban, densely populated area, finding nearby property to develop green space where families can recreate is a tremendous challenge. So is environmentally friendly transportation.

In 2000, the city of San Antonio, Texas, decided to use a one-two punch to address those challenges. City leaders placed on the ballot a proposition asking voters to approve a sales-tax initiative to fund hike-and-bike trails along the city’s creekways.

Voters took that leap of faith and approved a sales tax allowing the construction of a series of creek-based linear trails along three of the city’s waterways.

Eleven years later–with the purchase of more than 1,100 acres of environmentally sensitive land, as well as the completed construction of 22 miles of trails and another 15 under construction–voters have shown their approval by extending the program.

The new initiative, approved in November 2010, provides for the continued development of trails along numerous waterways across the city, including the Salado and Leon creeks, as well as the Medina and San Antonio rivers.

In addition, the city will begin land acquisitions and trail construction in new locations, such as the Westside Creeks, major tributaries and connections between existing trails. People from all walks of life have the opportunity to reap health- and fitness benefits from multi-use trails.

“These trails offer unique recreational opportunities for our citizens and visitors,” says Special Project Manager Brandon Ross, who oversees the Linear Creekway Program for the parks and recreation department.

“The program also helps to preserve property during significant flood events. It’s been extremely well-received by our citizens with trails getting steady use from the moment they’ve been opened to the public.”

The Details

The plan calls for a total of 45 miles of paved trials to be completed. Land acquisition and construction of the trails is expected to cost $65 million.

Each segment includes a 10-foot-wide trail, along with trailheads that have parking, signage and other amenities. There are shared-use paths, designed to accommodate all modes of non-motorized transportation.

The goals of the greenways program are to:

• Extend outdoor recreation and fitness opportunities, including hiking, biking, bird-watching and other recreational uses

• Preserve riparian habitat and urban forest

• Promote alternative transit opportunities by enhancing bike and pedestrian connectivity among neighborhoods, parks, schools, retail shopping and employment centers

• Increase the effectiveness of stormwater drainage by protecting natural floodways from encroaching development, and allowing floodway maintenance crews to remove trash and woody debris.

The ancillary goals include:

• Facilitating neighborhood revitalization and inner-city development

• Conserving and interpreting cultural resources

• Developing stronger community pride

• Providing economic-development opportunities

• Lowering crime rates in greenway corridors.

Trail design objectives include:

• Maximizing accessibility for all potential users

• Creating a durable, sustainable trail that requires minimal maintenance

• Promoting user-friendliness and safety

• Minimizing impact to native vegetation and wildlife

• Incorporating interpretive features.

Friendly Advice

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