It won’t open until 2021, but Stone Oak’s newest public park already has residents excited about the possible fun features that could be on their way.
Such was the tone of a recent forum where planners asked neighbors to share their ideas for the future Classen-Steubing Ranch Park.
Those suggestions ranged from paved to natural trails, as well as creating educational spaces and sports venues.
“We hope this will be another crown jewel in District 9’s parks and recreational facilities,” said John Courage, the area’s City Council representative.
Sitting over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone — San Antonio’s principal source of drinking water — the park comprises about 165 acres of the former Classen-Steubing Ranch, dotted with live oaks and limestone outcrops.
In 2016, the city purchased a total of 204 acres for about $10 million using aquifer-conservation funds to stave off a planned 3,000-unit residential development west of U.S. 281 and north of Loop 1604.
An additional $3.7 million allocation from the 2017 bond paid for 39 more acres of family ranchland close to Huebner Road and Hardy Oak Boulevard.
The city will finish extending and intersecting those two thoroughfares by year’s end.
Concepts for the park are currently being predesigned; the procedure will continue until October.
Dozens of residents attended a public meeting about the anticipated recreational space March 27 at Wayside Chapel’s Stone Oak campus, offering their ideal visions for Classen-Steubing Ranch Park.
The community currently utilizes nearby city and county parks such as Stone Oak, Panther Springs and Bullis, but has long complained about an absence of public, free ball fields and pools in the immediate area.
Former District 9 Councilman Joe Krier and his successor, Courage, both said the new park presents a prime chance to provide Stone Oak with these and more no-charge recreational amenities.
Several attendees said they would welcome softball, baseball and soccer fields to the embryonic park.
“There are places you can go to today, but you have to pay to play or you’ve got to go to the completely opposite side of the city in a 30- to 40-minute drive, and I’ve heard parent after parent say, ‘I don’t want to have to do that,”’ Krier said.
Audience members contributed various creations; some wanted a mix of natural and paved trails.
Art Downey, interim president of the new Friends of Classen-Steubing Ranch Park, suggested extending the wilderness trail from Stone Oak Park further south past Bush Middle School to the new park.
Other residents, such as Spencer Rau, recommended a higher degree of fitness stations and trails.
“It’d be (a) great place for runners to be able to run out the door before they take their kids to Las Lomas Elementary, or the high school senior who’s trying to get ready for cross-country season,” he added.
Jeff Jordan, president of South Texas Off Road Mountain-Bikers, said his group is experienced in helping create and maintain multi-use trails in some city parks and would be willing to do the same at Classen-Steubing.
“We employ sustainable trail-building techniques to minimize any type of erosion or damage to the environment,” he added.
Townsfolk including Joe Fratis and Heather Hansen proposed an outdoor environmental-education element, possibly incorporating a small amphitheater or a building similar to those at Hardberger and Confluence parks.
“There’s a wide range of things we’d like to do,” added Hansen, who said she’s forming a nonprofit focused on interactive environmental education for young families.
A few others suggested small splash pads for children, a little pool and event venues.
A May planning workshop could include a brief walking tour of the park acreage, said Mark Wittlinger, Transportation & Capital Improvement’s project manager and landscape architect for San Antonio.
The city has $5.3 million left in bond funds to begin prepping park development. Wittlinger added the park’s boundaries could be slightly modified to accommodate desired amenities or environmental issues so long as the acreage remains contiguous.
The full design phase is set for January 2019-March 2020, with a 13-month construction schedule starting in August 2020.