The newest leg of the Mission Reach opened Saturday at Roosevelt Park. Judge Nelson Wolff and other dignitaries were on hand, but the real star of the day the was the glistening San Antonio River. San Antonio River Authority (SARA) staffers guided walkers along the Phase I of the Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Project.
And that name says it all.
Transforming and restoring the eight-mile stretch that will connect the River Walk through to the historic San Antonio Missions. Only 1.25 miles of the project is currently opened, but there is plenty to see...and do. You can hike, bike, and eventually, you will be able to kayak down the river. (Actually, I understand you can kayak through downtown and Eagleland areas now, if you get a free 30-day permit.) But, this section will be less Hard Rock and more rocky riffles (more on that later).
The aim of the SARA team is to create a more natural habitat for native plants and animals, all of which will insure the improvement of the river water. Though off to a spectacular start, they still have a heck of job ahead of them. I mean, after all, there are 350 acres to plan, design, plant and maintain.
But, here are some key elements you will want to watch for:
1) riffles: Those stones placed strategically along the edges and in the river agitate the water and provide oxygenation for plants and animals.
2) embayments: Hey, those puddle-like, soupy areas serve a purpose. They provide necessary areas when flooding occurs, and they have their own little viable ecosystems.
3)riparian woodlands: Basically means indigenous plants, shrubs and 3,000 trees will be planted, which will 'mimic the diversity' or our natural woodland areas. For some of us, that means more shade, plain and simple. But, not only that, it provides a wonderful balance and organic harmony to the area. OK, so not ALL shade, just a natural amount. In all, over 20,000 native trees, shrubs, native grasses and wildflowers will be planted. Many are from seed, so watch where you step.
Of course, right now it is winter and though there are a few hardy species that consistently provide a tidbit of color, the real reward (and official opening) will come in the spring when bouquets of salvia, sunflowers, scarlet sage and other wildflowers will grace the river's edges and slopes. Also, expect another mile of the Mission Reach to open in the summer; the whole project is to be completed in 2013.
For more information on the Mission Reach Project go to sanantonioriver.org.