SAN ANTONIO – More than six years after voters approved it as part of the 2017 bond, a much-debated project to restore the Lambert Beach and pump house area at the northern edge of Brackenridge Park could soon be underway.
The San Antonio City Council is scheduled to vote on a work contract for the first phase of the project Thursday morning. The city still needs some approvals from the Texas Historical Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but the director of the city’s Office of Historic Preservation, Shanon Miller, says, “Chances are, it’s you know, we’re looking at 30 days before there’s -- before there potentially is actually work happening in the park.”
Miller says the crumbling structures, including the stone walls, are a safety hazard. However, she says the “extensive public input” has been one of the reasons it has taken so long to get going.
Recently, that included pushback over the number of trees the city wanted to cut as part of the work due to how close they are to the wall and other structures.
Originally, the plans called for removing 70 trees in the area around the pump house, but only 48 are on the chopping block now. Another 21 are due to be relocated, including a 44-inch-wide live oak tree, which Miller says will be dragged back away from the wall.
But the the trees to be removed include a half-dozen “heritage” trees at least two-feet thick.
Grace Rose Gonzales, who co-founded the “Stop The Chop” coalition, thinks the city can, and should, keep more of the trees in place.
“Our planet is turning into a desert. San Antonio is turning into a desert. There isn’t anything that anyone can tell us otherwise,” Gonzales told KSAT.
Her group had supported an alternative method for building a retaining wall, which it says would save more trees.
However, Miller says that no matter how a wall is constructed, it would still require excavation. The city worked with a panel of independent arborists, who “all believe that no additional trees would be able to be saved,” she said.
“When bringing in that heavy equipment, it causes a lot of stress and strain on the trees. So they may not die immediately, but their chance of survival is very slim,” Miller said.
Still, Gonzales is not happy with the plans for the trees and hopes the council will pump the brakes at Thursday’s meeting.
“We have several new council members, and they need to get apprised of what’s exactly going on,” Gonzales said.