Brackenridge Park is a gathering place of mi gente, my people, families, friends, strangers, lowriders and cruising hot rods, bikers and others sharing a common thread of traditions, social connections, cultural cohesion and social practices.
I honored the sacred on the winter solstice with my friend Matilde, who shared the creation story of Yanaguana, the spirit river that runs through the park. The sacred water bird, or the anhinga, that nests in the park also has a religious connection. According to the Payaya people, the water bird flew into the Blue Hole where the blue panther lived. The water bird then flew out of the spring, water dripping from its tail feathers, giving life to the region. With the sacred river mapped in the stars, the anhinga rests in his stellar home.
The cultural and religious significance of the park to indigenous people — tribes that have rested, hunted, prayed along the sacred river — is unmistakably tied to the human environment — the “human environment” defined as including the natural and physical (eg, built) environment and the relationships of people to that environment.
We should be alarmed by the San Antonio City Council’s request to remove from Brackenridge Park 105 native trees — the oldest, most ecologically valuable resources in the park. We should be protecting trees, as San Antonio’s air quality is being downgraded. Trees are important in protecting our air quality, as they sequester carbon and make oxygen we need to breathe. They also help with flood plain management.
On ExpressNews.com: San Antonio residents score small victory in fight over heritage trees at Brackenridge Park
On Jan. 26, the city Planning Commission approved a request for a variance for removal of significant trees in excess of the 80 percent tree preservation requirement. The 2010 Tree Ordinance requires heritage trees to be preserved at 100 percent.
On Jan. 28, protesters gathered for the San Antonio’s Parks and Recreation and Public Works department’s “media event,” which was canceled 30 minutes prior to starting without any public notice.
On Jan. 30, the public was given 72 hours public notice to review the department’s submission to Historic and Design Review Commission on a tree removal plan.
We should be alarmed by the San Antonio City Council’s request to remove from Brackenridge Park 105 native trees.
On Feb. 22, the Historic and Design and Review Commission delayed a vote to allow the city time to review plans.
It’s difficult to enjoy the park these days as park workers bang two-by-fours daily to scare away birds. It gives me a headache and elevates my blood pressure. It’s also disturbing watching the USDA’s Wildlife Services shoot explosives at nesting great egrets inside the nearby San Antonio Zoo. Is this the future for wildlife in city parks?
Alesia Garlock is a wildlife and environmental advocate in San Antonio.