Scenic Loop: A neighborhood that plays a big role in water quality for the rest of San Antonio

Many homes in the area are part of the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program

BEXAR COUNTY – If you talk with residents along Scenic Loop and throughout Grey Forest, there’s a topic that is often brought up: water. People who live in the area are water conscious and for good reason. Many of the properties sit over the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer and lie along Helotes Creek, which funnels into the aquifer.

”We’ve been approached by developers ever since I can remember,” recalled Lisa Muyres Pack.

After all, properties along Scenic Loop Road are exactly that — scenic.

”It’s rural. It’s peaceful. It’s a natural setting,” Pack explained.

Helotes Creek (Copyright 2024 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Which in turn makes it coveted. Developers have long eyed the area. But, residents here tend to be protective of their land.

”The more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t want to ever sell,” Pack said.

Her 35-acre property has been in the family for 60 years and like many of her neighbors, she’s intent on preserving its natural beauty. Because of that, environmentalists will argue that San Antonio has cleaner drinking water.

“Very obviously, (San Antonians) benefit from my stewardship,” said Pack, who lives in Bexar County, just outside the city limits of San Antonio and Grey Forest.

With this in mind, for decades now, the City of San Antonio has been operating the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program (EAPP).

In simple terms, the city buys up easements over the contributing and recharge zones of the Edwards Aquifer. Until the end of 2023, this was done through 1/8 cent sales tax, approved through a bond. It has now switched to a debt issuance program, freeing up the sales tax for job creation. This will fund the program for another 10 years.

The easements stretch from Bexar to Uvalde County. It means the landowners keep the land but promise not to sell it to developers or add anything that would contaminate the water below. By doing this, the City of San Antonio believes it enhances the city’s water quality. By most accounts, the program has been a success story.

”We have almost 130 conservation easements now, over 182,000 acres over a six-county target area,” explained Phillip Covington, special project manager for the EAPP.

Easements purchased by the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program (Copyright 2024 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

So, when Pack was approached to join the program, she didn’t hesitate.

”No brainer,” quipped Pack. “Just immediately.”

Pack’s property backs up Helotes Creek and that’s one of the biggest reasons the EAPP deems the land so valuable. The creek, in many cases, is a direct portal to the aquifer. Water flowing down the creek often disappears into San Antonio’s main water source.

”Lisa’s property, in particular, has quite a bit of frontage along Helotes Creek, so whatever is happening on her property matters to the quality of the aquifer just downstream,” Covington said.

While many neighbors of Pack are also in the aquifer protection program, not everyone has taken this path. Developers do and will pay big money for land in the area.

Recently, KSAT’s Patty Santos highlighted a controversial potential development along Scenic Loop, led by Lennar Homes. It called for thousands of houses to be built on Guajolote Ranch.

At the heart of the issue is the disposal of wastewater, leaving the development to be met with major pushback by not only residents of the Scenic Loop neighborhood but also San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

”Why would you allow one hand of your governing body to spend all this money, taxpayer money, to protect the water and then turn around on the other hand and allow someone to come in and mess it up,” questioned Pack.

”You have all this impervious cover, you destroy the trees, you are going to add at least 1 million gallons of wastewater a day down the creek,” added Grey Forest resident Susan Beavin.

Both Pack and Beavin said they have no plans to back down, but one thing is certain: the Scenic Loop neighborhood is focused on water and water quality, and they hope their actions benefit the millions that live just to their southeast.

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About the Authors

Justin Horne is a meteorologist and reporter for KSAT 12 News. When severe weather rolls through, Justin will hop in the KSAT 12 Storm Chaser to safely bring you the latest weather conditions from across South Texas. On top of delivering an accurate forecast, Justin often reports on one of his favorite topics: Texas history.

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