Jul 11, 2023 - News

Plans for San Antonio's arboretum are moving along

A rendering of the proposed arboretum shows green space with a long bench.

A rendering of the arboretum planned for the Brooks area. Photo: Courtesy of MP Studios

The plan to bring an arboretum, or a "flourishing museum of trees," to the South East Side is moving along.

Why it matters: The planned arboretum, which would transform the former Republic Golf Course into a private botanical garden dedicated to native trees and shrubs, would offer a much-needed outdoor space in the area.

  • Tom Corser, CEO of the nonprofit Arboretum San Antonio, tells Axios the arboretum will be an asset for the city as a destination for outdoor education, nature walks and hiking opportunities.

What's happening: First, 170 acres must be purchased from the owners of the former Republic Golf Course.

  • An additional 18 acres, which are outside of a floodplain that Corser says could be used for a center and entry roads, must also be acquired.
  • Then, organizers will build out the master plan.

Zoom out: At 188 acres, the arboretum would be larger than most preserves throughout the state.

  • Arboretums in Houston and Dallas are 155 and 66 acres, respectively.
  • Texas' largest arboretum is Humble’s Mercer Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, which is 250 acres along Cypress Creek.

What they're saying: Corser says he envisions a space that rivals the best arboretums in the U.S.

  • "We're shooting for a transformative space on the South East Side of town that brings people into sort of a different world of nature and one that would be an anchor destination for people that visit San Antonio that would be on their list of top five things to do," he says.

Yes, but: While the arboretum is planned to be a destination for the city as whole, Councilmember Phyllis Viagran, whose District 3 encompasses the proposed arboretum, believes it hasn't attracted big donors because of its location.

  • "If this was somewhere north, people wouldn't be so hesitant, the private donors might come a little faster. Because it's in the southern sector and it really hasn't been done before, they're playing this kind of wait and see," Viagran tells Axios.

What's next: Corser says the next step is securing funding from Bexar County — $7.3 million over three years — to help buy 18 acres, as well as pay for developing a master plan and early design for the property. He expects the process to be complete by mid-August.

  • The Brooks Development Authority, a government entity, will purchase the remaining 170 acres for $1 million, which Arboretum San Antonio will lease, Corser says.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that the $7.3 million from Bexar County will also go toward developing a master plan and preliminary design for the project.

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