Last Updated on January 30, 2024
Estimated Reading Time: 4 min
This series provides readers the opportunity to learn about the unique insight and experiences of the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) Board of Directors and their personal connection to the San Antonio River in hopes of inspiring stewardship of area creeks and rivers.
Gaylon Oehlke was born and raised in Goliad County, where he attended Goliad High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University in 1972. During this time, Oehlke was a member of the Texas National Guard. Oehlke retired in March 2004 as president of the Kenedy and Robstown credit offices for Capital Farm Credit, ACA, after 32 years of service. He has been a board member at the River Authority since 2003, and his current term expires in 2025.
How does the River Authority show commitment to the community’s safety?
A big commitment the River Authority shows to community safety is its comprehensive approach to flood mitigation. This includes the ongoing maintenance of flood retention dams throughout the San Antonio River Basin. The River Authority operates and maintains a total of 41 flood retention dams. In Karnes County, there are 13 flood retention dams mitigating flooding in populated areas, and they are designed to withstand up to 44 inches of rain over a 24-hour period. There are 28 dams in Bexar County, and the largest system (14 dams) is located in the upper reaches of the Salado Creek Watershed. An additional way the River Authority shows commitment to the community’s safety is by hosting six (6) free Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events within Wilson, Karnes, and Goliad counties semi-annually. The agency’s hope is that it will lead to a reduction in waste that enters our creeks and rivers.
What motivated you to serve on the River Authority board?
I started serving on the River Authority board during my first retirement year as I was coming out of my position as an agricultural lender. Also, having my own personal ranching experience, I thought serving on the board would give me a way to connect with people who care about land and conservation. I have always been interested in protecting land, and by serving on the board, I have gained so much knowledge on how land usage affects the overall health of the San Antonio River Basin.
Gaylon with Chairman of the Board Jim Campbell at the Escondido Creek Parkway Anniversary Celebration in 2021
What San Antonio River Basin Report Card metric do you find most interesting?
The most interesting metrics to me are those that directly measure the quality of the water. The expertise of the River Authority’s staff has been imperative in the improvement of the health of area creeks and rivers. Protecting our water resources and guaranteeing they are safe, clean, and enjoyable for the community is vital. To ensure that these metrics for the entire San Antonio River Basin remain positive, we must always remember that our everyday actions directly affect the watershed and our ability to enjoy it.
Gaylon with Kristen Hansen, Senior Manager of Watershed and Parks Operations for the River Authority
What has been the most interesting aspect of the Escondido Creek Parkway project?
The Escondido Creek Parkway project was truly a unique project, unlike any development taken on by the River Authority in the past. The community’s vision for the project led to opportunities for Karnes County’s leaders, private companies, and partners to directly impact the park. The committees came up with a “naming rights” approach in which many individuals and companies were contacted and asked to donate funds toward parts of the project in exchange for name recognition. Donors were commemorated with their names placed on a leaf and added to the Tree of Life art installation inside the pavilion, while larger donors received signage on the item donated, such as the HEB Tour of Champions Pavilion. GPS coordinates were added under the names of the donors so they could locate their contributions. This made Escondido Creek Parkway a true community park where all donors became a partner in the development of this valuable space.
Escondido Creek Parkway
The Tree of Life art installation at Escondido Creek Parkway.
The River Reach is back!
River Reach is a quarterly, 12-page newsletter that is designed to inform the San Antonio River Authority’s constituents about the agency’s many projects, serve as a communication vehicle for the board of directors and foster a sense of unity and identity among the residents of Bexar, Wilson, Karnes, and Goliad counties.