City delays vote on Brackenridge trees and will finish designs first

After weeks of vocal opposition from conservationists, the city of San Antonio has deferred seeking approval to remove several heritage trees in Brackenridge Park.

City officials announced via press release on Tuesday that they would delay their request to the History and Design Review Board to remove the trees while the city and its consultants complete design work. for the park’s approved Bond 2017 project.

“No one wants to remove heritage trees, especially from a historic urban park, but if removal is ultimately necessary to protect public and historic structures in Brackenridge, I want the community to understand the full context of the project,” said said City Manager Erik. Walsh said in the statement.

“I have therefore asked staff to suspend the HDRC review, which has dominated the conversation and distracted from the wider benefits of the restoration work, while we complete the design and work with our partners and stakeholders. .”

During this time, city staff will also work with the Texas Historical Commission and re-engage a committee of Brackenridge Park stakeholders to “ensure historic structures in the park are properly protected and removal of heritage trees is minimized.” “, declared the city in the press. Release.

Conservationists pushing for the trees to stay call the city’s decision to postpone the HDRC decision a “temporary victory.”

“The city has lost public trust on this issue,” said conservationist Alesia Garlock.

Residents are showing up to oppose the proposal to remove 104 trees – including several heritage trees – in Brackenridge Park at the HDRC meeting last week. Credit: Bria Woods/San Antonio Report Credit: Bria Woods/San Antonio Report

Councilman Mario Bravo (D1) and Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2) told the San Antonio Report they felt the move was a victory for their constituents. Bravo said the city’s decision follows private meetings he and McKee-Rodriguez had with Walsh on Monday evening and Tuesday morning.

“I’m grateful to the City Manager for taking that into consideration and going back and trying to make sure we go through the normal design process for these projects and wait until we get more of public comment,” Bravo said. “It will slow down the process and give people the opportunity to intervene before the design is finalized and before it comes back to HDRC.”

Last month, the San Antonio Planning Commission approved modifications to the 2017 Brackenridge Park Bond Project that would remove 104 trees, including 10 heritage trees, according to city staff. threaten protected historic structures in the iconic park.

In 2017, voters approved $7.75 million for improvements to Brackenridge Park, including the restoration of these historic river walls and structures, including the 1920s river walls on Lambert’s Beach, rehabilitation of the historic 1776 upper work acequia and diversion dam and stabilization of the 1870s pumphouse and aqueduct channel.

Because Brackenridge Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a State Historic Antiquities Landmark and a City of San Antonio Historic Landmark, the restoration project is subject to review by the Texas Historical Commission and US Army Corps of Engineers for environmental impacts, including impacts. to designated cultural resources, the city said in its news release.

Ahead of the Planning Commission’s vote in January, Jamaal Moreno, an employee of the city’s public works department and a project manager on the bond project, said that for the project to meet THC and US Army Corps of Engineers, trees threaten historic structures should be removed since the structures more than a century old must be rehabilitated on site.

“If we continue to allow these trees to stay there, they will eventually disintegrate the cultural resources that we have in the park,” Moreno said at the time.

Last week, after two hours of public comments from conservationists and two more hours of discussion by commissioners, the HDRC delayed its decision and said it would reconsider the proposal at a meeting this Friday.

Now, the project team will seek HDRC approval this spring or summer for the final design of Lambert Beach and the conceptual design of the pumphouse and dam, the city’s statement said. The Parks and Recreation Department will again convene a committee made up of park tenants, adjacent neighborhood associations and regulatory agencies to “create a forum to guide park development and information sharing,” it said. the city said in its statement.

As a precaution, Lambert Beach on the west side of the river will be fenced off to restrict public access “due to the degrading conditions in this area of ​​the park, which includes the historic river walls”, the official said. staff.

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