SAN ANTONIO — The traffic of Interstate 10 rumbling overhead doesn’t seem to trouble the turtle sunning on a rock off the river’s shore. Or the snowy egret posing by the pylons. Or the great blue heron, hunkered in the grasses along the shore, eyeing me suspiciously as I eye him. (At least it looks suspicious. Hard to tell with herons.)
I’m on San Antonio’s famed River Walk, a couple of miles and a far cry from the bustling downtown section. This is the new Mission Reach section on the south side of town: a paved hike-bike path that connects downtown to the city’s famous historic missions.
Mission Reach, which officially opened in October, is much more than the path; it’s also an ambitious and impressive ecosystem restoration project.
At a cost of more than $300 million, the San Antonio River Restoration Project is returning this southern stretch of the river, which in the 1950s was converted into a charmless drainage ditch, back to its original beauty. The sinuous curves of a healthy river have returned, and water is again flowing in riffles and runs. Native plants and trees are being planted while invasive species are being eliminated (a difficult and probably never-ending chore).
Look up and you can see industrial buildings and smokestacks and, in the distance, the Tower of the Americas. Shift your eyes back down and you see ducks diving for their dinner, double-crested cormorants with their wings splayed to dry, dragonflies flitting among the grasses and wildflowers, and water tumbling merrily over rocks. ...more