San Antonio River Improvement Project
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Re-establishing Natural River Features
Location San Antonio, Texas, United States
Client San Antonio River Authority
Scope Planning, Landscape Architecture
Size 13.5 miles of river corridor
The central portion of the San Antonio River—River Walk–has long been a successful tourist destination, but the northern and southern reaches of the river have been dominated by neglect or by engineering drainage solutions that discouraged habitat and prohibited human use. Working with the 22-member San Antonio River Oversight Committee SWA developed design vision and master plan for these 13.5 miles of river corridor based on the three key aspects of hydrology, nature, and people: maintaining or enhancing floodwater conveyance, re-establishing more natural river features and habitat; and improving the quality of life of San Antonio citizens. The plan guidelines address three different areas – urban and park segments of the northern reach, and the southern reach – including a continuous bike and pedestrian path for the entire river passage including the existing River Walk. The urban portion of the northern reach is only 80 feet wide and bordered by underutilized private properties. Here the goal is to create a linear park that will serve as a “green front door” for high-density mid-rise housing. Where the northern reach of the river passes through a large urban park, the river edge will be repaired and protected against erosion, and invasive plant species will be removed. The southern reach of the river has been substantially engineered over the past three decades for rapid conveyance of floodwaters, but the result offers nothing to the community. SWA used the principles of fluvial geomorphology to restore the river to a more natural configuration and increase floodwater capacity. A substantial re-grading of the existing trapezoidal channel will create a meandering alignment with a more stable channel. The wider channel will create additional capacity, allowing for the planting of trees and subsequent establishment of habitat, while the use of native grasses will reduce mowing. Here the river will provide recreational uses for existing and future single-family neighborhoods, along with any corporate campuses that may desire to take advantage of the amenity.