City Councilman Rey Saldaña said Neighborhood & Livability Committee members who attended a Monday night meeting that took up criticisms of a proposal to drastically change the nature of Brackenridge Park voted to remove several contentious items opposed by people who actually use the park.
Saldaña said the proposal will no longer include closing all of the roads and parking spaces in park, and the whole idea about building a tram to shuttle people to and from a couple of new parking garages has been nixed. When the community realized that all the proposed changes around Brackenridge could fundamentally change the popular picnic and barbecue spot used by San Antonio's working class families, they made their voice known, as we've previously reported
. "That's a testament to all the stakeholders," Saldaña said. "We heard it clearly from them."
The original idea was to create a grand entrance where whoever wanted to use the park would enter. Then they'd have to park at a proposed parking garage and take a tram to whatever part of the park they planned to enjoy. This is unrealistic for families toting kids and coolers who use the park because it doesn't cost a dime, opponents have said. As any passerby of Brackenridge on Easter weekend will note, the tradition of hanging out at the park with the family is strong, with some people even camping out overnight to secure a spot.
The city started to ask for community input after it rather quietly spent $250,000 to craft a proposal to update the Brackenridge Park master plan. When city officials held six public meetings this summer, they heard from residents concerned the proposal would drastically change their beloved park. "It was a genuine mistake on the City's part," Saldaña admitted, explaining that's why he voted to remove those items from the plan. According to the San Antonio Express-News,
council members Cris Medina and Roberto Treviño joined Saldaña in the vote while council members Alan Warrick and Ray Lopez did not attend the meeting.
So what's next for Brackenridge? Saldaña says the city will hit the re-start button and re-engage with members of the community to better understand complaints about the first proposal. He said City officials are planning to actually go out to Brackenridge Park and survey park goers to get a better understanding of their thoughts on the proposal. They'll also hold several focus groups where they'll physically walk through the proposal in the park and record feedback from focus group members.
The proposal still calls for creating a grand entrance and a grand lawn, along with renovating the Sunken Garden theater and making the park more "pedestrian friendly." City officials also want better interpretation of historic buildings and Spanish waterworks and want to revert the San Antonio River and Catalpa-Pershing channels back to more natural states.
The longstanding tradition of families grilling out and hosting picnics at Brackenridge Park might not be under threat after all.