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River Walk expansion enhances South Side's charm

By James Avalos | Pulse staff reporter

Mission ReachThe City of San Antonio has been hard at work for the past several years in a multimillion-dollar project that expands the River Walk from downtown south to the Missions San Juan and Espada.

The three-phase process consists of applying new soil to both banks of the river, planting new vegetation, introducing new wildlife habitats and paving new pedestrian foot and bike paths.

Phase One broke ground on June 2, 2008, and was successfully completed in early 2011. It improved 1.25 miles of the River Walk from Lonestar to San Pedro Creek. Phase Two began on Feb. 13, 2010, and it improved the path from San Pedro Creek to Mission Road.

Phase Three is by far the largest and most expensive part of the project. Begun on Oct. 10, 2010, it will span 5.75 miles from Mission Road to Mission Espada and cost $9.3 million. The southernmost part of the project, Mission Espada Park, beginning just before the S.W. Military Road undercrossing is not open yet.  A San Antonio River Authority tweet said the full length of the Mission Reach should open in the fall of 2013.

Students at Palo Alto College have shown great interest in the visible progress of the project.

“I’m really impressed with how it’s turning out.” Said Estephani Rodriguez, a freshman History major. “It’s really beautiful, and the bike rentals are ideal for families and tourists. I just wish they had more water fountains and a few restrooms.”

B-cycle is unique idea that allows individuals to rent bikes from stations located throughout the city, with a portion of these located at entrances to the Mission Reach area. A customer can register online from home, pay a fee, which varies time renting and how many bikes are out, and check out a bike from any station they choose. This system works for families and or tourists who don’t have enough bikes for everyone but want to spend a pleasant day outside.

“I love how much prettier it is now,“ said Rachel Villanueva, a Liberal Studies major “I can’t wait for the Espada side to open.”
Jacob Rodriguez, a Navy veteran with a family, is studying Engineering and has a high regard for the future of the river trails and its impact on his family.

“Just getting back from the military, I noticed a huge change in the river area. I feel like I can now take my daughter on a walk with no worries,” Rodriguez said.

For more information about the Mission Reach project, visit its website at http://www.sanantonioriver.org/mission_reach/mission_reach.php.