The Stinson Hike and Bike Trail is the most recent public place to play on the South Side.
Debuting last November, it begins with a new parking lot marked by plenty of signs, directly across Mission Road from the front gate of the historic Stinson Municipal Airport. It still has that “new-trail” look, from the charming weather vane in the shape of an old Cessna to handsomely framed maps and history displays, “Mutt Mitt” dispensers, and a still-shiny reflective yellow stripe down the middle of the wide, smooth path.
The shady trail, cut through woods and brush across from the airport, makes a loop just 1.3 miles long – perfect for a nature walk with young children, small dogs or gentle exercise.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Sylvia Garcia and her 11-year-old son, Vincent, bicycled over the little footbridge spanning the Espada Acequia, which connects the Stinson trail to the broad, open Mission Reach.
“Yesterday was our first time here,” said Garcia, who lives near Poteet. “We came to see the World Heritage missions, and we walked the trail, too. We liked it so much we came back today and brought our bikes.”
Runner India Price was taking a rest, sitting on one of the large limestone boulders placed along the route. Price, who studied nursing at St. Philip’s College, said she moved from Oakland, California, to the Brooks area.
“I really like coming here,” she said. “I usually just jog up and down the river trail. I haven’t been on this trail before.”
Other exercisers gathered at the junction of the two pathways, where mounted placards provide more information about the airport, plus a history of the aquifer and the irrigation system stretching to all of the UNESCO World Heritage missions on the trail near the San Antonio River.
Stinson history is also the story of U.S. aviation.
Even before Kelly and Brooks fields opened for military use, the Stinson siblings – Katherine, Marjorie and Eddie – created a flying school on 500 leased acres of land where the airport bearing their name stands today. Katherine, a brilliant aviator and stunt flier known as “The Flying Schoolgirl,” was a phenomenon – only the fourth U.S. woman to earn a pilot’s license.
The airport is the second oldest continually operating general-aviation field in the nation. Today, it’s the official “reliever” facility for San Antonio International Airport. As the South Side grows and thrives, Stinson is expanding and upgrading as more small planes and corporate jets land there.
The popular Big Bib barbecue restaurant in the terminal draws diners, and spiffed-up meeting rooms and other facilities bring the community together. The new hike-and-bike trail fits into the overall plan.
District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran was an early proponent of linking the airport to Mission Reach.
“I started talking to city staff about all the land the city owns right in front of the airport, and what we could do with it, and the idea of a hike-and-bike trail started,” Viagran said.
“It took us quite a while to get it done. We had to get permission from the San Antonio River Authority to connect to the Mission Reach, and to work with the National (Park) Service, since it goes over the acequia,” she said.
The trail opened in time for Viagran’s annual District 3 5K-run last fall.
It took a lot of teamwork to build the route, officials said, with two San Antonio agencies playing key roles.
“The Aviation Department performed project management, and Parks and Rec provided guidance and input from the planning phase through completion of trail construction,” said Brandon Ross, special projects manager for the Linear Creekway Parks Program.
From design through fruition, Ross added, the project’s total budget was about $2.5 million – funded by both departments, but the majority from Parks and Recreation, since it’s officially part of the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail System.
More pathway development is anticipated, Ross said.
“While the Mission Reach trail ends just south of Mission Espada now, a 4-mile trail is currently being built that will extend from the Mission Reach westward and transition into the Medina River Greenway Trail, which will be 17 miles long,” he said.