SAN ANTONIO -- Thursday night there's going to be a big party downtown to kick off a $175 million dollar creek restoration campaign that will essentially create a new and different river walk on San Pedro Creek, which flows across the western border of the downtown area.
The bleachers are arriving at the Fox Tech High School football field, the stage is being set and supplies are being hauled in for Thursday night's lyric opera performance featuring the San Antonio Symphony.
The story of San Pedro Creek and the area's historic significance will be brought to life by a huge cast of singers, dancers, and drummers.
“San Pedro Creek was a fundamental center in our community,” County Commissioner Paul Elizondo said.
Elizondo said some of his fondest memories relate to playing at the creek as a young boy.
“Downtown was our playground and our mall during that era. At the creek, there were hundreds of things you could do as a kid. You know. Fish for crawdads. Fish for perch. We used to fish for perch,” Elizondo said.
The project, which will take place in four phases, will improve flood control, restore habitat, improve water quality and add acres of landscaped walkways.
Planners hope the improvements will draw people, and their money, to an area that has been ignored for generations.
The area now is nothing more than an open concrete culvert, featuring broken fences, overgrown vegetation, and trash that might be best known for sheltering homeless people.
The project’s headwaters are near Fox Tech High School, at the tunnel inlet that funnels flood water under the city. From here the improvements will be made all the way south to Cesar Chavez Boulevard and the creek's confluence with the San Antonio River under I-10.
Elizondo, whose name is emblazoned on several important community venues, said this project is one for the ages and something that brings him a great sense of accomplishment.
“You see my name on a lot of projects around here, but this is as big as it gets because it reaches into the essence of our community,” Elizondo said.
Elizondo said during his childhood, the area was a vibrant, multi-cultural zone with strong family businesses and a great spirit of community.
“It was much like Hell's Kitchen in New York where several races came together. The Italians, the Lebanese, which we called Syrians, Mexican Americans. The groups came together,” Elizondo said. “This is a unique restoration of the basic core and nature of our community, particularly the west side, to make sure that that heritage is acknowledged and kept alive.”
Elizondo added that, "This one is family. This is home. This is where I was born in that area and this is where I grew up and this is where the community was born and I'd like to see that part of it restored."
Here is a link to a video that has lots of artists renderings and maps that provides a really complete overview of the project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqaL8AjkzbQ
(© 2016 KENS)