Last Updated on March 31, 2023
As part of our commitment to safe, clean, enjoyable creeks and rivers, the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) maintains more than 500 acres of parks along the San Antonio River’s 240-mile course. Our Watershed & Park Operations staff uses prescribed burning as a land management tool to help maintain the Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Project along the San Antonio River Walk.
Read along to learn more about this adaptive management method and the benefits it provides to the native habitat!
What are the benefits of prescribed burning?
Prescribed burning is a controlled, planned, and scientific land management tool widely used to manage excessive vegetation under very specific and safe conditions. Native plant communities, and particularly grassland systems, can benefit from periodic, low-intensity fires and other natural processes that reduce competition from taller plants and trees. Land managers use fire ecology for restoration purposes through prescribed burning.
When used as part of an adaptive management program, prescribed burning can result in an overall healthier landscape by removing dead pant material, restoring nutrients to the soils, and suppressing trees as well as some non-native species.
River Authority Prescribed Burn Process
The River Authority staff conducted the first prescribed burn on the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Walk in June 2018 and has continued to do so on a regular schedule. “Cool” season burns, or burns that are conducted in the winter, are more likely to help promote the growth of native species whereas “warm” season burns, or burns conducted in the summer, are used more to suppress growth of non-native species.
In preparation for the initial prescribed burn in June 2018, the River Authority contracted a licensed and certified prescribed burn management company and received approval from the local fire department. The River Authority also conducted public outreach to educate and inform the public through traditional and social media efforts as well as held public meetings targeted at the neighborhoods adjacent to the prescribed burn area site.
On the day of the prescribed burn, weather conditions are checked as high winds and rain can affect whether the team can proceed or not. If conditions are ideal, then trail closures are placed in effect along with signage to educate the public and offer detour options. The burn is supervised by River Authority staff along with the licensed contractor and the local fire department. After the burn is completed, temporary educational signage is placed on the prescribed burn site to educate the public about what took place.
River Authority staff is currently working on this year’s prescribed burn sites as we continue to use this adaptive management method on the Mission Reach as part of a regular operations and maintenance schedule. Having conducted several prescribed burns since June 2018, we no longer hold public meetings prior to doing the controlled burn. We do continue to inform the public of upcoming prescribed burns using traditional and social media. Follow our social media channels to learn more and see photos of the upcoming sites!