Apr 22, 2024 - News

New development rules coming for Brackenridge Park

The San Antonio River, with its retaining walls, runs through trees in Brackenridge Park that are reflected in the water.

Brackenridge Park is beloved by locals and has been the center of controversies in recent years that stem from trees like these. Photo: Megan Stringer/Axios

Brackenridge Park is getting a new set of guidelines for future development amid yearslong community uproar that initially stemmed from a plan to cut down more than 100 trees.

Why it matters: The guidelines — focused on respect for people and nature; history and culture; and compromise — would act as a clear rubric to evaluate any future city-funded and landscape-altering proposals in the park to preemptively address residents' concerns.

What they're saying: "What you didn't have two years ago that you have today is certainty," Terry Brechtel, interim CEO of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy, told residents at a meeting announcing the guidelines. "Because this is a process that's created certainty of how projects will be evaluated."

  • "We've come to a process that can help prevent some of the struggles that have happened in the past and hopefully prevent projects that the public is not in agreement with from even making it," said Allison Chambers of architecture firm Ford, Powell & Carson.

How it works: Anything from a new trail to expanding existing park amenities like the Sunken Garden Theater or the Witte Museum would be subject to the new guidelines.

Yes, but: The guidelines won't apply to the first phase of the controversial 2017 bond project that caused those struggles. That didn't sit well with some residents.

  • "There's no reason why you can't use these guidelines now, when nothing has actually begun," said Ida Ayala, a resident who's long protested the tree removal plans.
  • The second phase of the 2017 bond work could follow the guidelines, a city spokesperson tells Axios.

Catch up quick: Voters approved a bond in 2017 that included then-unspecified park improvements. By 2022, the city planned to remove more than 100 trees, some considered rare and irreplaceable, to repair nearby historic river walls.

What's next: The guidelines will go up for a City Council vote this summer, and won't take effect unless approved.

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