SAN ANTONIO — Jessica Rodriguez says she and her 3-year-old daughter, Evelynn, are regular users of the city's ever-growing creekway trail system.
"It's a great trail," Rodriguez said, while checking out a newer reach of the Salado Creek Trail near Loop 1604 on a mild July morning. "We've been going on it for years, but with this new section we just wanted to come and see what it was about."
Rodriguez said investing time in nature and stepping away from technology is a valuable resource for her family.
"We get to see different animals along the trail like deer. We've seen snakes before, spiders, everything. So it's a safe opportunity for us to ride our bikes and run and jog and walk the dog," she said. "It's a great thing we have in our city."
Bike rider Joe Zlotkowski agreed, saying he likes sampling different reaches of the 69-mile system that encircles the city.
"It's just a fantastic experience and I really enjoy all of it," Zlotkowski said.
Greenway Trails Manager Brandon Ross said seeing happy users enjoying the system is a joyous experience.
"I love the fact that it's something that brings people together, and it's an opportunity for folks to take a deep breath and relax and just enjoy the good things in life—to be with family members and loved ones, to be able to enjoy walking their dogs and just kind of have a free and enjoyable experience being with each other," Ross said.
Rodriguez said it is easy to pick a park along the way and have an adventure.
"Just pick any of the parks along the trail and go as far as you want. You can explore and just see different parts of the city," Rodriguez said.
Ross said the trails connect many of the city's 240 parks.
"So it's a great opportunity if you want to enjoy two, three, four or a dozen parks in one day," he said. "You can pretty much get on the greenway system and access a lot of different park locations, with a lot of different amenities."
Because families are hungry for adventures during the summer, the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department has launched a campaign they call "Take to the Trails" reminding guests to pack common sense when they head out.
Ross said they want to emphasize trail safety and etiquette, including utilizing the buddy system, staying aware of your surroundings, yielding to pedestrians if you're on a bike, and carrying plenty of water and sunscreen.
Surveying a new trail head on Loop 1604 at the Salado Creek crossing, Ross said they are making steady progress towards connecting that trail to the Leon Creek trail that traverses the west side of the city.
"We're making our way, slowly but surely, to make the systems connect at Eisenhower Park," Ross said. "So we'll have Salado, that will end at Eisenhower Park. Then we're working now on the plans to get Leon up to Eisenhower Park so the Salado and Leon systems will connect."
He credits the success of the system to the many volunteers and donors who have invested countless hours in building a world-class amenity.
"It's a blessing to a lot of people. And it's really rewarding to see so many people enjoying it and being able to enjoy the outdoors. It's about getting away from the hubbub of work and congestion of the highways and enjoy nature," Ross said.
Ross said planners have added many design features that help create a safe, fun experience, including emergency call boxes, mile markers, way-finding signage, bicycle repair stations, water fountains, and bathroom facilities at trailheads and parks along the way.
Ross said it's up to users to keep the system safe and healthy for all. To that end, Ross said it is important for people who bring dogs to the trail to remember to be courteous, including keeping pups on short leashes to prevent them from getting tangled up with bicyclists.
Ross also laughed and said, "There is no poop fairy on the trail," advising dog owners to pick up pet waste.
"We have a lot of people that misunderstand. They think they can just drop their bags of waste beside the trail, but we really want people to be taking them to the trash cans because any kind of waste that we have on the trial is not good for the environment," he said. "It's not good for people and the atmosphere of the trail."
To learn more about the new Take to the Trails campaign or the entire linear system, click here.