San Antonio might be lagging behind other large Texas cities in the number of parks for its residents, but there is a lot going on in the city right now as officials play catch up, according to Leon Springs Business Association guest speaker, Eric Lautzenheiser, natural areas superintendent for the San Antonio Parks Department.
"Our goal was to save about seven to eight [thousand] acres, and we ended up saving seven, so I think we did quite well," Lautzenheiser
"And we're two years ahead of schedule."
The original concept was to develop quadrants throughout the city, but that plan fell apart during the then-booming real estate market.
"The most bang for the buck was in the Northwest (quadrant)," Lautzenheiser
The 303-acre Voelcker Park stands out in the Northeast quadrant, which Lautzenheiser
refers to as the demographic center of the city.
"(U.S.) Highway 281 over to (Interstate) 10, there is very little park and an awful lot of people," he
said a $1 million state matching grant is expected to be announced this week to further develop the park.
envisions a nature center in the first part of Phase 2, where pre-school to senior residents can learn about solar energy, water recycling, xeriscaping, water harvesting and basic natural history.
"All around us are nature centers.
San Antonio has never had one," Lautzenheiser
"I'm so excited.
We've been doing this out of our cars at Friedrich Park for years, but I wanted something in the center of the city."
In addition, Lautzenheiser
said a great deal of infrastructure from the old working Voelcker farmstead is left over and he'd like to see it restored and operate as an educational tool for school children.
"In the future, we'd like to have a working pioneer farm, where kids can come to see a milk cow being milked, butter being churned, hens laying eggs, that kind of stuff," he
said city officials just launched what he
called "probably the best overall solution" for developers, which is the Regional Habitat Conservation Plan.
said the joint program between the city and Bexar County is an alternative to required consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department, a process he
says takes two to three years.
"You'd start public hearings and it would cost an unknown amount of money, you don't know what and you don't know what the market is going to be in two to three years," Lautzenheiser
"You don't want to wait that long.
That's why a lot of people are ignoring the Endangered Species Act."
With this arrangement, the city and county work out a mitigation plan for the whole region, which includes Bexar, Comal, Medina, Uvalde, Bandera, Kerr and Kendall counties, he
"We pre-negotiate, go through the entire public process and reach an agreement to mitigate the acreage for wildlife," Lautzenheiser