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San Antonio Parks

The $596 million approved by voters in the last bond election means improvements across the city "that will continue to improve upon the attractive quality of life we enjoy in San Antonio," as Mayor Julián Castro said May 13, and a recent ranking of the United States' 40 largest cities reinforces the need for park improvement in River City.

May 29, 2012 - 4:15 p.m. UPDATE: Though San Antonio ranked near the bottom in the Trust for Public Land's ParkScore study, it is clear that the city has been on track for improving accessibility and park quality for some time. San Antonio Parks and Recreation Public Relations Manager Kelly Irvin said that when you look at the four park bonds passed starting in 1999, it is clear that the city is making progress, and voters approve.

City's detailed information plan for the 2012 Bond

Irvin was quick to point out that the accessibility criteria used in the ParkScore study is only one way of looking at how accessible city parks are to local residents, especially when you consider that many people are accustomed to driving to green spaces. The construction of Greenway Trails has also helped access to park areas and green spaces, and these trails double as good ways to get around the city - the Leon Creek greenway system features access to UTSA and other areas in the north-west part of the city.

Parks and Open Spaces 2012 Bond Highlights:

  • Panther Springs Park, $2,500,000 - General park improvements to include the development of a walking trail to the Parman Branch Library.
  • HemisFair Park LF, $15,000,000 - Restoration of historic buildings, including the Magik Theatre, a civic park and the installation of a play structure, landscaping, and other improvements for an arts plaza/children’s square.
  • San Pedro Springs Park, $1,075,000 - Rehabilitation and development of park infrastructure to include walking trails, security and landscape lighting and park amenities.

When you look at the overall trend in city improvements and attention to green space over the past 10-15 years, which includes the Greenway trails, park improvements and trails for hiking and biking, it is clear that the city sees the need for improvement and is taking steps to improve accessability for residents all over the city.

San Antonio was recently ranked in the top 50 bike friendly cities in the U.S. and the city's bikeshare program is still in its infancy, so as the city continues to bolster parks and bike trails, rankings such as these will only improve. These rankings may seem too low to be any good, but consider the progress San Antonio has made to rank as high as it does. As this bond money begins to be spent and the biking culture continues to grow, expect San Antonio to make a climb up the rankings.

So what does this all mean?

San Antonio residents will have the chance to give their input on how to spend the $87.15 million approved by voters in public input meetings scheduled through San Antonio's Capital Improvements Management Services Division. Public Relations Manager Roland Martinez has been contacted and has yet to respond regarding the scheduling of these meetings, but in the meantime you can see how much money each park has been allotted, and brainstorm ideas with your friends and family for how it can be spent.

May 24, 2012 - 9:15 a.m. The Trust for Public Land's ParkScore study, which was released May 23, measures how well the 40 largest U.S. cities are meeting the community need for parks. San Antonio comes in at number 35, which may be suprising considering that "the Riverwalk is one of the greatest parks in the country," according to the Director of the Center for City Park Excellence, Peter Harnik.

Harnik was part of the team that led the study, and said that according to their findings, there is currently not enough parks to serve San Antonio residents, since only 32% of the city's residents live within 1/2 mile of a park. The median for the 40 cities studied is 61%.

ParkScore uses 5 measurement criteria to rank each city:

  • Median Park Size
  • Park Acres as % of City Area
  • Percent of Residents within 1/2 mile of a park
  • Spending Per Resident
  • Playgrounds Per 10,000 residents

San Antonio received only 42 out of 120 possible points, and a dismal 1.5 out of 5 park benches - a slightly more simple scoring method that the Trust came up with to make things easier. The city scored below the average in each of the 5 categories except Median Park Size.

How San Antonio Stacked up:

Median park size score 11.1 avg. 5.0
Park acres as % of city area score 7.9% avg 9.2%  
% of residents within 1/2 mile of a park score 32% avg 61%  
Spending per resident score $62.79 avg $85.14  
Playgrounds per 10,000 residents score 1.3 avg 2.1  

park score

This map shows in orange the areas of San Antonio where parks are needed most. Click the map to go the the ParkScore interactive map and other tools. Graphic used with permission from the Trust for Public Land - May 2012.

Harnik said that because San Antonio is so spread out, the proximity to parks score is hard to overcome, but pointed out that other spread-out cities like Oklahoma City (33), Memphis(31) and Houston (30), have figured out ways to make parks more accessible. One of the bonds approved on May 13 alotted $87.15 million for parks, recreation and open space, which Harnik said will help improve the city's score, since the study only took into account money that has already been spent and projects that have already been completed.

A complete listing of how the park money will be spent is available here.

Rank of Texas Cities:

  • Austin (19) with a score of 62/120
  • Dallas (21) with a score of 61/120
  • Houston (30) with a score of 47/120
  • San Antonio (35) with a score of 42/120

This is the first year of the study. San Fransisco ranked #1 with 89/120.

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