Fashion gurus say the hottest colors this year are shades of green. The hue is big with city planners, too. The proposed 2017-22 San Antonio bond issue, which passed easily in May, included a record $187 million for 79 parks and recreation projects.

That’s a full $100 million more than the amount allocated to parks in the last big bond issue in 2012. It’s definitely a good thing.

As the pace and complexity of daily life and the size of our cities relentlessly increase, most of us are becoming more isolated from nature. Back in 1970, when Joni Mitchell first sang about paving paradise and putting up a parking lot, San Antonio was still a relatively sleepy little town, with far more pressing worries than maintaining sufficient public green space. Nearly 50 years later, we’ve done a lot of paving.

Fortunately, we still have some great places, from venerable Brackenridge Park in the heart of the city to Hardberger Park, Panther Springs Park and the ambitious series of linear parks and walking trails connecting the city.

Recent studies have indicated clear links between lower rates of health problems in city folks who live close to parks or green spaces. We risk mental and physical problems when we completely wall off the natural world. These days, when everything from groceries to virtual dates are available online, it’s getting easier to isolate yourself from everything else.

In the last couple of years, I’ve been exploring the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trails System, named for the former mayor who sought more hiking and biking opportunities in San Antonio. It’s fantastic exercise, and a great way to commune with nature, from the farthest north stretches of Leon Creek to the Medina River, and more trails, including the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project, to open in the future.

Brackenridge, the new Classen-Steubing Ranch Park Development, the ambitious land bridge to unite the divided Hardberger Park, and the green space of downtown Hemisfair Park, with its family-friendly Yanaguana Garden and cool water features, are among high-dollar recipients of the 2017 bond issue. All good news.

Sometimes cities get the importance of parks right. Other times it takes a residents’ uprising to intervene. When the big Alamo Plaza Master Plan was recently unveiled, an immediate public outcry led to amending the lack of green space and shade in the original drawings.

Recently, one of our smallest city parks generated one of the most symbolic outcomes when nature and fast-paced, high-tech change collided. City Hall approved placing a Google Fiber hut (some 12 feet wide, 30 feet long and 9 feet high) in tiny Haskin Park, a North Central pocket park. Some neighbors went ballistic, but the story had a happy ending. Google execs vowed to replace it – and others citywide — with much smaller ones, about the size of a refrigerator. The company also announced it would use new trenching technology to further minimize the green space and public property affected by fiber-optic cable.

In the next few years, as another million folks are expected to come to the city bringing more cars, paving, air pollution and expanding suburbs, lobbying might be in order because it’s not so easy being green. Cities will require help from private conservatory groups like those supporting Brackenridge, Hardberger and other parks.

Our green spaces need all the citizen advocates they can get. These days, tree hugging isn’t a political position – it may be a positive step to better health.                                                                                                              

One comment on “Green is good

  • Thank you for this piece. As a Landa Conservancy Board member, I agree on the importance of the parks in our community. Please add the Landa Gardens Conservancy to your list that ARE helping. The Landa Gardens Conservancy is an excellent non-profit that maintains, alongside its public/private partners, this magical four acre urban park in the heart of San Antonio. Come visit. So many, such as yourself are unaware of this jewel. Hannah and Harry Landa’s philanthropy for this park and playground is very much alive today.

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