JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
A partnership between the City of San Antonio and Joint Base San Antonio will bring new hiking and biking trails through a portion of Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
Seeing these initiatives mature from infancy to a full-blown project between a city and military location demonstrates teamwork and provides a mutual benefit for city and military.
There are still some additional steps needed to finalize the initiative and there is a future vision to build a new horse barn, paddocks and this partnership shows how tenacity and patience leads to a wonderful outcome.
The Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail System, which includes Salado Creek, is an expanding system of paved multi-use trails funded with sales tax funds approved by San Antonio voters. The Salado Creek Greenway, recently designated a “National Recreation Trail” by the Department of the Interior, is currently divided into two long segments north and south of JBSA-Fort Sam Houston that will soon be connected into one, very long continuous trail, thanks to the partnership between the City of San Antonio, or CoSA, and JBSA.
The long-term goal of the trail is to encircle San Antonio in multi-use linear parks, linking the Leon Creek Greenway, Salado Creek Greenway, Medina River Greenway and trails along tributary creeks such as those on the west side which flow into the San Antonio River.
The initiative began in 1998 when former Mayor Howard W. Peak, along with City Council and community members, started to form the idea of building hike and bike trails in flood zones along city-owned creeks. Peak made it his mission to re-establish the historic importance of the creeks, reconnect San Antonio to its waterways and utilize the shared space to forge bonds between communities.
In 1999, the program plan was developed and the CoSA initiated a sales tax strategy to fund it, which was approved by San Antonio voters in 2000. The initial funding was continued by subsequent elections, using 1/8 cent from local sales tax revenue to develop the trails. Current funding is being used to expand the trail system and to enhance the existing trails.
With a mission to enhance the quality of life for San Antonio residents and visitors and preserve the natural land along the creeks, the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail System winds through natural landscapes along many of San Antonio’s waterways, including Salado Creek, Leon Creek, Medina River, Apache Creek, Alazan Creek, Martinez Creek, San Pedro Creek, Zarzamora Creek, Huesta Creek and Culebra Creek.
It currently includes over 65 miles of trail and more than 40 trailheads and neighborhood connections. Approximately 1,480 acres of property along San Antonio creekways have been acquired for the program since its inception.
In 2008, the City’s Parks and Recreation Department first expressed interest in constructing part of the trail through JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, to connect the Salado Greenway Trails running to the north and south of the base.
Since that time, the CoSA and JBSA have worked together to troubleshoot project concerns related to security, fencing and relocating the equestrian facilities that lie in the trail’s path.
On May 31, the paperwork finalizing the partnership began, with the execution of a “gift letter” signed by the CoSA and former Joint Base San Antonio commander, Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, which documents the city’s intent to perform demolition of the equestrian facilities to the benefit of JBSA.
“This will be a great benefit to the people of San Antonio,” said Brandon Ross, with the City’s Park and Recreation Department. “Our coordinated efforts will allow for a major connection to be made between two very long pieces of trail, connecting parks and neighborhoods north of the base to those south of the base.”
As for the equestrian facilities, “It’s a win-win situation for the city and for us – and the horses as well,” said Serafina de los Santos, 502nd Force Support Group Executive Director. “Currently proposed, the horses get a 30 to 40 new paddocks and service members get the use of a brand-new trail for hiking and biking.”
“It is a ‘young system’ named for the mayor who proposed the idea and has already reduced trash and contaminants going into creeks and rivers, and made San Antonians healthier,” Ross said in an April 2015 San Antonio Express-News article.
“We’ve preserved quite a lot of natural habitat. The creeks were largely forsaken and often targets for illegal dumping,” Ross added. “We’ve got people saying they’ve lost weight using the trails system. It’s restorative from a recreational standpoint. It’s also a great opportunity to get outdoors.”
People can keep up with the progress of the City’s trail system and other parks at http://www.saparksandrec.com