Location: 331 Roosevelt Avenue, San Antonio, TX 78210
Size: 8 miles
Cost: $245.7 million
Completion Date: 2013
Mission Reach is currently the largest urban ecosystem restoration project in the United States, stretching eight miles along the San Antonio River from downtown to Mission Espada with an estimated completion date in November 2013. The river gave life to heritage of culture of San Antonio, winding its way past the four founding missions and the Alamo built nearly three centuries ago.
Over the years, the river has been manipulated for utilitarian flood control and its naturally meandering route has been forced into straightened sections, some parts filled in with concrete. One of the goals of Mission Reach will be to bring the river back to its original meandering course and to naturalize the surrounding area with improved flood control and reduced erosion.
While much of the river’s beauty was sacrificed for utilitarian flood control in the 1950s, a major aim of the River Improvements Project is to restore a more natural setting and environment for the southern portion of the river, including returning the unnaturally straightened river to near its original meandering course with improved flood control and reduced erosion. After project completion, over three million cubic yards of material will have been moved from the river channel in roughly 150,000 truck loads to make room for ever 300 acres of restored woodland habitat while still maintaining the same level of floodwater conveyance. The volume of soil moved will be comparable to the amount of concrete used in the construction of Hoover Dam.
Ultimately, by integrating a hike/bike trail along Mission Reach, the goal of the project will not only be to promote a healthy, native riparian ecosystem, but to educate local residents and bring awareness to the benefits of an improved river habitat. Mission Reach will also reconnect cultural and historical features with the downtown region, increasing accessibility and educational opportunities.
As I rode my bike down Mission Reach (not all of it was completed yet, and I could not reach Mission Espada), I noticed several differences between Mission Reach and other hike/bike trails I’ve been on. First is the heavier emphasis on art and signage along the trail, pops of color and detail that encouraged me slow down and observe my surroundings. And second is the engagement of the trail and people with the river. Various landings jut out into the water, allowing people approach the water and experience the river more fully.