SAN ANTONIO — District 3 neighbors packed into Highland Forest Elementary to learn more about an important new proposal that could bring a world-class nature center to the area where Salado Creek crosses Southeast Military Drive.
The concept, which is moving forward this week with land acquisition plans, is called Arboretum San Antonio.
The plan is to turn a portion of the long-abandoned Republic Golf Club course into a sanctuary for trees and people.
The preliminary goal is to develop a master plan for territory that hugs the east bank of the creek.
It's an area where hardwood trees of the Salado Valley start giving way to the thorny brush country of the South Texas Plains.
The City of San Antonio is just completing a reach of the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trails System in the area, and the plan calls for trail users and others to be able enjoy a peaceful preserve for generations to come.
Tom Corser is the Executive Director of the project. Corser said, "We're going to have 188 acres along the Salado Creek with bike trails going through it, beautiful water features, a plethora of trees that we can celebrate and tell stories of San Antonio."
Corser said the word arboretum, from Latin, means a special place for trees.
"It is a botanic garden that is focused on trees. This is will be a place to celebrate trees that will be unique to San Antonio," Corser said.
Corser said Bexar County Commissioners have committed $7.3 million for land, and the deal is moving forward.
Take a look at this exclusive content of the surrounding area:
"We are closing on the land. We are working on signing a contract probably in the next day," Corser said.
Corser said everyone involved in the new non-profit organization is working to make the plan a reality, and wants people to participate from the beginning.
"We will do our due diligence over the next two or three months and close on that land, and once we close, we will be doing the master planning, which is a very involved, community engaged process to understand exactly how we want to take these 188 acres and make good use of it," Corser said.
The Brooks development is nearby and Corser said they are key partners.
"We have partnered with Brooks. They are investing in the land with us. It's an extremely foresight-full and useful investment that they are making and we can make great use of that partnership in the future," Corser said.
Speaking to a full house of concerned residents, District 3 representative Phyllis Viagran told the crowd she understands their disappointment with the closure of the golf course.
Viagran said a trip to a similar venue in Washington D.C. convinced her this could be a legacy development for the south-east side.
"We are really excited about that because it preserves the green space that the residents wanted and it also brings something new that's going to last generations to the city of San Antonio," Viagran said.
Neighbor Rosemary Didiez attended the meeting and said she is excited to have a fabulous new neighbor and new connections to the city's hike and bike trail system.
"With the development of Brooks City Base, we have seen a major growth in the area the last 16 years, so we are thrilled that the meeting ended on a positive note and all the attendees were satisfied," Didiez said.
Corser said more information about the project can be found on the group's website here. "It's a great place to sign up. Put your email in there. We'll give you updates. It has information about who we are. We are at a very early stage with the website, but we will be adding to it in the future," Corser said.