|Wednesday, Jun 29, 2011|
Secretary Ken Salazar was on hand this past Saturday to help the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, the San Antonio River Authority, and San Antonio Missions National Historical Park open the first two phases of the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Improvement Project.
The project is a nearly $246 million river ecosystems restoration effort designed to restore the riparian habitat of the San Antonio River, reconnect the historic Spanish missions of the city to the river, and add over nine miles of hiking and biking trails that will connect the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River to the famed Riverwalk of downtown San Antonio.
In his congratulatory remarks, Secretary Salazar announced he would be supporting San Antonio’s efforts to nominate the historic Spanish missions of San Antonio as a World Heritage Site.
“I'm ready to sign off today,” Salazar told a crowd of several hundred residents and local dignitaries at the grand opening as hundreds more walked, biked, and strolled the newly restored section of the San Antonio River. “San Antonio deserves this recognition because you have set an example for the nation and the world.”
In addition to the four missions comprising San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, San Antonio’s other Spanish mission, Mission San Antonio de Valero, known popularly as the “Alamo,” is also part of the World Heritage nomination.
The Mission Reach of the San Antonio River encompasses the entirety of San Antonio Missions NHP between Mission Concepción to the north and Mission Espada to the south. The Mission Reach project is slated for completion by August 2013 and represents a decades-long effort by the local community to restore the natural ecosystem of the San Antonio River and reconnect the historic link between the river and the missions lost during a 1960s flood channelization project.
The Mission Reach will link directly to San Antonio’s famed Riverwalk and previous restoration efforts north of downtown San Antonio. When completed, San Antonio Missions NHP will be part of a 2200-acre urban park connecting city, county, state and federal parklands into one cohesive park connected by hike and bike trails and the San Antonio River.
Secretary Salazar also took time to tour Mission San José, where he took part in grinding wheat in the Mission San José gristmill, the oldest mill in Texas. He then addressed a crowd of park supporters, park partners, local residents, and visitors for over an hour in the park’s newly renovated theater in the visitor center.
Secretary Salazar restated his support for the World Heritage nomination and pledged the assistance of his staff. Secretary Salazar also talked about how the park and the San Antonio River Improvement Project fulfill two key goals in the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative by addressing river restoration projects and urban parks through one cohesive effort.
The assembled audience of nearly 100 showed their appreciation to Secretary Salazar for taking the time to participate in the day’s festivities and for his remarks of support for the local community’s effort to restore the San Antonio River. Secretary Salazar answered over a dozen questions from the crowd and received expressions of support and thanks regarding the park, the river, and America’s Great Outdoors.
For more information about the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Improvement Project, visit their website. For more photos of the day’s activities visit the park’s Flickr site.