City council looks to improve safety at area parks

SAN ANTONIO – In a few weeks, the San Antonio City Council will consider how to improve safety along its growing Howard W. Peak Greenway Trails System.

This comes after District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg filed a council consideration request last week to address security concerns.

"We've asked staff, along with the advisory board of linear creeks, to consider all options to bolster security," said Nirenberg Thursday shortly after filing the CCR. "The brand of our linear creekway system has become one of world-renowned status, and we need to make sure that the safety and security in the parks match that."

His recommendations were presented Monday night at the San Antonio Parks and Recreation board of trustees' regular board meeting.

Among the recommendations the city's Parks and Recreation Director Xavier Urrutia shared with trustees include emergency blue light devices and security camera systems.

"Adding more awareness campaigns or maybe changing the built environment that we have in some of the trails, or is it more presence on the trails?" said Urrutia.

Anndy Brown is an avid bicyclist who spends most of her free time at Bamberger Nature Park. But after a woman was reportedly sexually assaulted here last week, Brown said she's now on high alert.

"I do carry pepper spray with me just in case, but I am always very aware of my surroundings even though I do go to the park by myself most of the time," Brown said.

Other park-goers like Jonathan Ellswood are eager to see improvements.

"I'm pretty excited that San Antonio is improving the way it is," he said. "I look forward to seeing what else they build up here."

The greenway system has grown to over 46 miles, with eventual plans to connect the entire city with more than 130 miles.

"We're going to make a huge investment as a city in these trails," Nirenberg said. "We want to make sure that people are comfortable on them, that they're safe and that we can continue to hold them up as a great asset to our community."

Nirenberg said he wants to meet with several advisory boards to get input into what the trails need, including the possibility of more lights and on-site security.

"Everything from safety infrastructure from cameras and the blue light emergency phone system and other options," he said. "People need to be aware that they're safe and one way to do that is the kiosks but they also need to have the opportunity and access to reach out for help if they need it."

"It's protecting us and making us feel more secure and making us feel more that we're protected by the city and they care about us," said Genesis Garza, who likes to run on the trails but often sticks to a track at a nearby high school. "It's more safe and there's more people out there and it's more open and I just feel safe out here."

Nirenberg said he hopes to have recommendations for the rest of the council by mid-summer.