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Advocates for the preservation of the historic San Pedro Springs Park are asking city leaders to help push for up to $5 million in improvements, including completing a walking trail.

The Friends of San Pedro Springs Park, a nonprofit support group, is requesting money from the city’s upcoming 2017-22 bond program to finish the incomplete trail, which is supposed to circle the park; restore and update amenities; and maintain the land’s historic legacy.

The acreage north of downtown is the oldest park in Texas and sixth-oldest in the United States, officials said.

Shannon Deason, a member of the Friends, said the group is asking local leaders “to get us the money in the coming bond to finish the trail and the master plan in time for an unveiling to commemorate San Antonio’s 300th anniversary.”

The city marks San Antonio’s tricentennial on May 5, 2018.

“Often our park gets the short shrift in terms of money. It’s the real crown jewel of the (city’s) park system, yet it takes a back seat to Brackenridge (Park) and Hardberger (Park),” Deason added.

Five committees are reviewing proposals for the planned May bond issue, which covers citywide projects costing an estimated $850 million. City Council approval is expected in January; then it’s up to the voters.

Improvements to San Pedro Springs Park, outlined in a master plan, will enhance the surrounding neighborhoods and adjacent San Antonio College, supporters said.   

“Finishing the master plan and the trail will finish a 20-year process of bringing the park back to what it once was and should be again,” Deason said. “Few in San Antonio even know this park exists, which is a tragedy. It is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the city.”

She added, “We must secure the bond money to create a park that the city can celebrate. The new trail has been immensely popular and the completion of the trail, along with the completion of the master plan, will create a park the city can be proud of and point to with civic pride.”

Funding from a 2012 bond for the walking trail fell short and only three-fourths of the trail has been built, according to officials. Meanwhile, additional park infrastructure needs work, too.

“The trail used $1.07 million to build three-fourths of it,” said Friends President Hector Cardenas.

In addition, plans had called for the relocation of the two fields at the Koger Stokes Softball Complex, he said.

“I would say that relocation by the city and (building) the rest of the trail would be around $2.5 million. To finish all that is needed on top of the trail I would say another $2.5 million. Total for all is maybe $5 million,” Cardenas said.

The president said the park’s historic status makes it worthy  of protection. According to historians, the springs in the 46-acre park once provided water to an Indian village known as Yanaguana, and Spaniards founded the city of San Antonio at the headwaters in 1718, after first visiting the area in 1691. Humans have inhabited the area off and on for 12,000 years.

“Man has used, visited and lived by these springs for thousands of years,” Cardenas said. “The area around the springs was designated an ejido (a communal place) in 1729 by the king of Spain. The original Mission San Antonio de Valero was founded just downstream directly above the San Pedro Creek in 1718, and the first Spanish acequia (irrigation channel) was dug from of these springs in 1718.”   

During the mid-1800s, the park became a major site for festivals and celebrations for San Antonians, but after the opening of Brackenridge Park in 1912, San Pedro Springs Park began to decline, Cardenas said.

“City funds were not spent on its upkeep and its historical importance was lost,” he said. “People to this day are unaware of its prominence in the founding of San Antonio. The future of the park as the Friends see it is that one day the park’s master plan will be funded and accomplished, and that the city and its citizens again will recognize and respect this park for its historical life-giving waters and public usefulness.”

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