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Where the sidewalk ends ...

Mulberrysidewalk It's almost too early to dream, really, but it's true that the nascent Brackenridge Conservancy has at least heard of the idea to restrict access and/or speed on the section of Mulberry that runs between Broadway and North St. Mary's. That increasingly trafficked stretch is park road, after all, which once upon a time ended at the old historic Brackenridge polo fields rather than heading west into Monte Vista.

While I'd hate to see San Antonio recreate Austin's east-west travel problems -- shutting down Mulberry to significant thru traffic would leave narrow Hildebrand and indirect Josephine the only nearby ways to quickly travel from Broadway to St. Mary's -- it would help solve a growing problem.

When neighborhood residents and the city agreed on the 2003 Brackenridge Park Improvements project that made the city's queen green space so lovely (well-marked hiking/biking trails, art installations), that plan included a wide sidewalk that would wind through the existing trees on the south side of Mulberry. It's a sorely needed amenity; anyone who's traveled that route in something other than a car takes their life into their hands. This includes parents and kids taking the shortest path to the popular Lion's Field playground. Not helping matters is the lack of a well-marked and guarded crosswalk into the park.

Unfortunately, it seems, someone forgot to tell the Municipal Golf Association - SA before they began renovating the Brackenridge Golf Course, and now upset River Road residents say tee boxes and one of the greens may be too close to the road to allow for the adopted sidewalk plan. MGA-SA's Reid Meyers and Jim Roschek say they're willing to work with the neighborhood within reason -- irrigation equipment, etc, is already set, so no moving the golf features -- essentially conceding that a path could run along the existing fence line (but remember, Meyers says there will be a fence!). Roschek and Meyers would clearly prefer that any foot or bike traffic on Mulberry cross the street and use the park trails, but critics worry that that doesn't address accessibility issues for elderly, handicapped, or young children. At the least, it would require a mid-road crosswalk. Roschek told members of the River Road Neighborhood Association that "some adjustments" were made to the course in case the sidewalk plan came to fruition, but the RRNA is seeking guarantees that the 2003 plan can in fact be implemented.

A brief conversation Tuesday with Roschek would seem to suggest no. "The problem is, if you're really gonna [build] it, and not remove any trees, it really has to come onto the golf-course property quite a bit," he said, adding, "I've not seen the original [sidewalk] plan, so it's hard for me to comment on that."

Enter, perhaps, the conservancy, modeled on New York's Central Park Conservancy, and charged with working with the park's many stakeholders (leaseholders like the Sunken Garden Theatre, the Witte, and the MGA-SA, park users, neighborhood residents and businesses, etc.) to address issues such as parking, growth, and traffic.

June Kachtik, a member of the Conservancy's steering committee and the San Antonio Conservation Society, says it's too soon to draft agenda items: they're still writing bylaws and coming up with a mission statement -- tasks she hopes will be complete by the end of September so that an attorney can draft the articles of incorporation and apply for non-profit status.

"If we can just get this thing started, it would be the role of the Conservancy to address these issues and serve as a forum," Kachtik said, adding that they may be too late to participate in the ongoing Avenue A/B hike-and-bike discussion.

The steering committee meets the first Monday of the month. A website is in the works, and, says Kachtik, they'll be posting agendas and meeting locations soon at saconservation.org.

In the meantime, in an April 28 letter, the RRNA has asked the Parks & Recreation Board to intervene and help move the Mulberry sidewalk construction forward.

Posted by Elaine Wolff on 5/7/2008
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