San Antonio’s famed River Walk a model for urban ecosystems

October 31, 2013 by  

On Saturday, October 5, the city held a grand opening of Mission Reach, a revitalized, eight-mile long section of the San Antonio River.

The San Antonio River Walk is one of the city’s most popular attractions, and brings visitors from all over the world. The original River Walk was built in the 1930s, and winds throughout the city’s downtown, connecting theaters, restaurants, shops and historic places.

The Mission Reach section is particularly historic, since it links together four missions, dating from the 1700s, which together represent the biggest group of Spanish colonial buildings in North America. Since the missions were established, flood control work done in the 1950s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers damaged the ecosystem and is one example of the need for revitalization.

The just-completed restoration brings back the lost aquatic and riparian habitats, and will encourage native species to return. In addition, the city is adding 23,000 new trees, which include over 40 native species, as well as hundreds of acres comprising more than 60 species of wildflowers and grasses. There will be great opportunities for people bike, paddle, and hike in the Reach, thus reconnecting with their river.

The Mission Reach project is inspiring planners from cities all over the world to restore urban rivers and green space in their own communities.

San Antonio officials could work with brochure printers to create a pamphlet for other cities, explaining the project and how they implemented it, making a blueprint for other to follow.