City of San Antonio backs off plans to remove 100 trees at Brackenridge Park -- for now

‘Mother Nature wins for the moment,’ wildlife advocate says

SAN ANTONIO – Opponents of the planned removal of more than 100 trees at Brackenridge Park said they were relieved to learn the city’s Historic Design and Review Commission will not be taking a final vote Friday.

“Mother Nature wins for the moment,” said Lynn Cuny, founder and president of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation.

San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh announced Tuesday afternoon that the city was pulling consideration of the $7.7 million planned improvements to Brackenridge Park. He said it would try again later this spring or summer.

“I have directed staff to pause consideration by the HDRC, which has dominated the conversation and distracted from the broader benefits of the restoration work, while we complete the design and work with our partners and stakeholders,” Walsh said.

At a news conference held at the park Wednesday, District 2 City Councilman Jalen McKee Rodriguez said he and District 1 Councilman Mario Bravo had been asking for the postponement.

Without a finished design, McKee Rodriguez said, “Wait until a design can be proposed, which would include community feedback and input before requesting removal of trees.”

Cuny, a longtime advocate for the egrets and other birds who nest in the trees at Brackenridge Park, said her group that has served the community for 45 years should be one of the stakeholders.

If not, she said, “Then all I can surmise from that is that they do not want to hear what Wildlife Rescue has to say.”

Connie Swann, a spokeswoman for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the methods being used to get the birds to fly away, are non-lethal and follow U.S. Fish and Wildlife guidelines.

“By reducing the numbers of migratory birds at Brackenridge Park, we anticipate areas of the park that have been uninviting to the general public will now be accessible for all our community to enjoy,” Swann said.

However, Cuny said, “Park improvement by destroying trees. Park improvements by destroying nature. I’m sorry. That is ridiculous.”

Cuny said it’s latest attempt to reduce the rookeries of federally protected migratory birds who flock to San Antonio during nesting season.

Although their droppings can become a public health issue after the birds arrive and the trees have damaged an historic wall nearby, Cuny said there should be a way to solve those issues.

“What should happen is that we should agree from the get go that no harm will be done to the trees or the animals,” she said.

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.