SAN ANTONIO – Ditch your couch and head over to the nearest access point to the Mission Reach Hike and Bike Trail to celebrate National Rivers Month. June marks the month-long celebration to treasured rivers across the country, including the San Antonio River.
“The purpose of (National Rivers Month) is to allow us to really share how beautiful our river is (and) share with the public how to keep it clean,” Kristen Hansen said. Hansen is the San Antonio River Authority’s, or SARA’s, watershed and parks operations manager.
You can walk your dog, run a couple of miles, bike, and skate on the paved trails or paddle along the flow of San Antonio’s major waterway. Here’s a map to download on your phone before heading out.
Due to COVID-19, the San Antonio River has been a popular spot for families.
“Just in these past few months, the spike in people that we’ve had here has been amazing,” Hansen said. “We’ve had double the amount of visitors per day. Thousands of people have come through here.”
SARA hopes to see that trend continue but also wants people to realize that there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to keep the water clean.
Hansen said it starts with people picking up after themselves at home and in public spaces.
“Please dispose of your trash properly, put it in a trash can,” Hansen said. “Please just make sure that (the trash) is not in an area where it's going to get hit and knocked over. The trash eventually will make it into the San Antonio River.”
The work doesn’t end there, as sometimes rain sweeps in a lot of debris. That’s where SARA’s Operations Team comes in.
“The operations team is really responsible for our hardscape. So, all the litter that you see along the trail, they are responsible to pick it up,” Hansen said. “Then we have our landscape team that comes through and mows our trail sides and also works on our ecosystem restoration project.”
After storms make their way through San Antonio, Hansen said the operations team has committed to a 14-day window to pick up the majority of the floatable trash along Mission Reach. Daily, SARA employees scout for trash along the nine-mile ecosystem.
“They find mattresses,” Hansen said. “Sometimes we find a lot of styrofoam cups. We find a lot of plastic bottles and a lot of plastic bags.”
Frequent visitors like Juan Cortéz said they noticed the difference in the trails.
“It's a lot cleaner than it was a few weeks ago,” Cortez said. “It was pretty littered with the trash, and I think it's from the big storm. There was like trash up in the trees.”
Cortez said he’s thankful for the work SARA does to help make his 12-mile run on Sunday morning a lot more pleasant.
“Thank you. I mean, from seeing it last time, how much of a mess it was (to now), they’ve done a great job,” Cortez said. “Keep it up.”
It’s a job SARA is committed to doing year-round to ensure waterways like the San Antonio River stay clean and viable for generations to come.
Visit SARA’s website to learn more about their projects to protect this ecosystem.