My River POV: Benjamin Janysek

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Benjamin Janysek near restored horned frog habitat

The “My River POV” series provides readers the opportunity to learn about the unique insight and experiences of the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) staff and their connection to the San Antonio River in hopes of inspiring stewardship of area creeks and rivers.

Benjamin Janysek

Benjamin Janysek, Parks and Dams Foreman

How does your team contribute to the work of the River Authority?

Our responsibilities in Karnes County involve the upkeep of the 13 flood retardant dams, which includes fence maintenance, mowing, hay baling and shredding, and monitoring for any human or animal impacts. Many people are unaware that dams play a crucial role in holding back floodwaters during storms. Their purpose is to ensure the safety of the City of Kenedy, which is situated at a lower elevation than its surrounding terrain.

My team also maintains the facilities and landscape of Escondido Creek Parkway (ECP) in Kenedy, TX and Branch River Park (BRP) in Goliad, TX. AT ECP, a major task is to keep the popular splash pad up and running. BRP is a bit smaller and includes a small disc golf course and a birdwatching station. We have arranged our team schedule so that a member is assigned to monitor the parks every day of the week. Both parks are accessible to all, offering community spaces where public land is scarce in the Southern Basin.

Branch River Park

Branch River Park

What types of animals can you spot in the nature parks?

At ECP, there are quite a few deer, foxes, bobcats, raccoons, opossums, and coyotes, and we even saw javelinas this morning! Each spring there’s a group of wild turkeys that walk through the park and of course there are all kinds of snakes: coral, Texas indigo, and bull. However, we’ve yet to encounter any rattlesnakes.

Has the community’s attitude towards the creek shifted since the opening of ECP?

Back when I began working at the River Authority 25 years ago, people were afraid to eat fish from the creeks and San Antonio River due to the misconception that they were contaminated with sewer water. That perception changed about ten years ago when Kristen Hansen, other executive leadership, board members, and community representatives in Karnes County began to envision ECP and what amenities we could build for the public along the creek. It’s a great feeling to support the community and brings us joy to see people enjoying the space and showing their appreciation.

Escondido Creek Parkway Splashpad

Escondido Creek Parkway

My family has participated in the River Authority’s Bike Rodeo event at ECP the past few years, my daughter’s cross-country team has used the trails for an event, and I have extended family that has used the park for birthday parties. On average, we have about 10-15 individuals who visit the park every morning for trail walking. It’s encouraging to see more schools taking the opportunity to visit these parks as well and students benefiting from the experience. It’s a wonderful sight to witness 80 kids making use of the splash pad and pavilion area at ECP in the summer. The overall quality of the local waterways has significantly improved and transformed, not just in Escondido Creek but also in Cibolo Creek, which runs between Panna Maria and Helena before joining the San Antonio River.

Is that your hometown?

Yes, I grew up in Panna Maria, which is a historic Polish community. Cibolo Creek was where my grandpa would take us fishing. Setting lines and catching yellow cats was our main activity, sometimes getting lucky with a bass. Those fish we caught in Cibolo Creek sustained us during Lent. The creek is also utilized for irrigation by some community members. The feeling of family is what makes living down here so great.

What are the future plans for the nature parks?

We’re in talks with our team and leadership about adding new amenities to the park. We recently began a partnership with the Karnes County 4H team, where they take care of the pollinator garden near the splash pad. These partners are truly wonderful and take pleasure in helping with the garden’s upkeep. We are lucky to have them and their forward-looking ideas in our community. In addition to the existing 2 miles of paved trails at Escondido Creek Parkway, we are also considering adding more trails to the park.

Benjamin Janysek near restored horned frog habitat

The restored Horned Lizard habitat on Escondido Creek Parkway honors the “Horned Toad Capitol of Texas.”

What actions can individuals take to ensure that these parks and waterways remain safe, clean, and enjoyable?

It is our wish for everyone to join us in keeping the parks clean and beautiful. For example, don’t be afraid to bend down and pick a piece of trash up! Also remember, picking up after your dog and returning the small rocks to their proper place helps our maintenance team and keeps amenities like the splash pad accessible.

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Acequia Trail Notice

The Acequia trail will have heavy traffic near MROC starting May 22nd until further notice. The SAWS Acequia project will be bringing in crews to work on the lift station site and across the street. There will have flaggers to stop traffic, please use caution. 

SASPAMCO Paddling Trail

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*Please Note: Paddling Trail from Helton Nature Park to HWY 97 is still closed due to blockages. 

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