SAN ANTONIO – The boundaries of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park have been expanded to include an additional 60 1/2 acres of land around the celebrated landmarks.
The expansion project, which has been in the works for years, was made possible by the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, which included a public lands title.
"It's able to kind of put together a lot of pieces so that people can truly understand what these missions were all about -- when they were founded, what they were about when they were at their height, and how today we can kind of enter into the original experience and understand why these missions are such a wonderful national park," said Father David Garcia, director of the Old Spanish Missions.
The San Antonio River Authority transferred 55 acres to the National Park Service, with the City of San Antonio contributing an additional 5 1/2 acres of land adjacent to Mission San Jose, the Mission Drive-In, and the Mission Branch Library.
The additional land will allow visitors to see the full scope of the missions, including original farming practices of the land.
"People often times think of a missions as just the church, but it wasn't," said Mardi Arce, superintendent of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. "The mission was the community, it was also the farm fields, and a ranch that went with each one of these places."
Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Dist. 35, who authored the legislation that made the expansion possible, said he hopes the expansion increases interest in the park.
"The community and our elected leaders at all levels of government believe in these missions, not only as a way of preserving our past but about our economic future," Doggett said. "Because this will generate hundreds of jobs and add millions of dollars, particularly tourist revenue, to the San Antonio economy."
Everyone involved in the expansion hopes this sends a message to the World Heritage Committee that San Antonio is serious and invested in the Missions.
The committee decides whether to approve the missions as a World Heritage Site on July 5.