Report Card Background Image

San Antonio River Basin Report Card

2020

Report Card Summary

2020
San Antonio River Basin Report Card Summary
The overall grade for the 2020 San Antonio River Basin Report Card is B. This grade is the average of twelve individual indicator grades, which are explained in greater detail below.
66.2
Park Usage
Park Usage
How is this being measured?
Explanation of the grade
Key findings

A+Park Usage

While all the metrics in the San Antonio River Basin Report Card have overlapping correlation to the safe, clean, enjoyable creeks and rivers aspects of the River Authority’s mission, the Park Usage grade is primarily related to the enjoyable aspect.

The River Authority’s District is home to nearly 2.1 million people per 2019 Census estimates, and as development continues to drive local population numbers up, there will be a growing need for all types of recreation facilities. The River Authority firmly supports the health and quality of life benefits of nature-based recreation. Over the past decade, the River Authority has added nature-based recreational activities throughout the basin including hike and bike trails, paddling trails, picnic and camping areas, playgrounds, fishing, birdwatching, and even disc golf courses. These river-based recreational resources have attracted thousands of users to bask in the beauty and enjoyment of nature.

Park Usage

The River Authority’s is working to increase the availability of nature-based recreation throughout the San Antonio River Basin by adding to our park assets, collaborating with other government entities to develop park resources along creeks and rivers in the basin, and by working with citizens to promote the use of and connections between recreational facilities that encourage the public to enjoy the natural resources of the area. With more recreational access to creeks and rivers, the River Authority believes individuals will develop a greater appreciation for the natural resources provided by the San Antonio River and its tributaries. This appreciation will lead to awareness of the issues affecting the basin and promote increased preservation and conservation of these natural resources by individuals, businesses, and governments.

How is this being measured?

For this metric, we are creating a score for usage of parks operated and maintained by the River Authority and a second score for usage of parks located along creeks and rivers throughout the basin which are operated and maintained by other governments or entities. These two scores will then be averaged together to determine the final grade for this metric.

This grade is calculated by using a rolling 3-year average of park usage – the list of parks being scored are identified in the “Explanation of the Grade” section. For this year’s basin report card grade, the data for the rolling 3-year average comes from fiscal years 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19. (Note: The River Authority Fiscal Year runs from July 1 to June 30.) The total park usage for this fiscal year (July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020) is divided by the 3-year average and multiplied by 100 to develop a score.

Essentially, the grade is largely a trend analysis with the basic assumption being that maintaining or increasing the amount of park usage is positive (i.e. will get a higher grade) and a decreasing amount of park usage is negative (i.e. will get a lower grade). Being a trend analysis, it is possible that this grade may produce scores above 100 or below 0. Scores above 100 will be shown as an “A+” on the report card dashboard and a score below 0 will be shown as a “F.” The actual numeric value will be used in the averaging of all metrics to produce the overall basin grade.

Park Usage

There are a couple exceptions to note for this indicator. The first exception is related to the amount of data currently available for this indicator. Some of the park usage data does not go back all the way to Fiscal Year 2016-17, and in some cases, parks have just opened, or they are identified to open in the future. Therefore, there isn’t yet enough data to score each park listed in the “Explanation of the Grade” section. The missing data will be clearly identified in the “Explanation of the Grade” section. We have decided to include the parks with missing data because over the next few years it is anticipated that all the data gaps will be filled allowing for these parks to be properly scored. The intent will be to expand the rolling average used to score this indicator from the rolling 3-year average, as used in this year’s report card, into a rolling 5-year average as the new data becomes available in the coming years.

The second exception to this metric is related to the River Authority’s paddling trail usage score. This score is not a trend analysis, but rather is based solely on data from Fiscal Year 2019-20. This score is determined by comparing the reported number of paddlers per the Canoe Trail Goliad and the approved paddling vendor in San Antonio against their beginning of the year projections.

For transparency, the River Authority recognizes that it is possible that overuse of a park may, in the long run, be detrimental to that park. Therefore, it may be argued by some that giving a positive score for increasing park usage may not be the ideal way to grade park usage. We were aware of this concern during the development of the San Antonio River Basin Report Card and decided to proceed with the use of the metric as described above despite its potential shortcomings. The River Authority firmly believes that more access to nature-based parks and paddling trails will provide area residents and visitors a greater appreciation for the natural resources and quality of life benefits provided by the San Antonio River and its tributaries. This increased appreciation will help promote preservation and conservation of these resources by individuals, businesses, and government. We will, however, address the potential threat of park overuse, when necessary, in future report cards in the “Key Findings” section of this metric.

Explanation of the grade

River Authority Park Usage Score

River Authority Paddling Trails Projected # of paddlers for 2019-20 Actual # of paddlers for 2019-20 Score
  4,623 3,880 83.9

 

River Authority Park 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 3-year average 2019-20 data Score
Museum Reach
(trail counter for pedestrians and bicyclists)
289,745 260,975 245,615 265,445 327,119 123.2
Mission Reach
(trail counter for pedestrians and bicyclists)
409,539 310,006 353,271 357,605 510,609 142.8
Confluence Park
(trail counter for pedestrians and bicyclists)
NA I 57,255 NA 74,914 130.8

San Pedro Creek Culture Park
(trail counter for pedestrians and bicyclists)

This park will have enough data to receive a score in the 2021 basin report card.

NA NA NA NA 108,023 NA
River Crossing Park
(main gate vehicle counter)
NA I 4,983 NA 8,626 173.1
Graytown Park on the San Antonio River
(main gate vehicle counter)
NA 10,345 12,614 11,480
(2-year average)
13,902 121.1
John William Helton-San Antonio River Nature Park
(main gate vehicle counter)
NA 36,607 49,076 42,842
(2-year average)
60,681 141.6
John William Helton-San Antonio River Nature Park
(special use gate vehicle counter)
NA I 9,315 NA 6,489 69.7

Escondido Creek Parkway
(trail counter for pedestrians and bicyclists)

This park will open in October 2020 and will have enough data to be scored in the 2023 basin report card.

NA NA NA NA NA NA

Trueheart Ranch Park

This park is still being planned and developed. Its opening date is still to be determined. It will be included in future basin report cards when enough data is available for it to be scored.

NA NA NA NA NA NA

Mann’s Crossing Park

This park is still being planned and developed. Its opening date is still to be determined. It will be included in future basin report cards when enough data is available for it to be scored.

NA NA NA NA NA NA

Straus-Medina Park

This park is still being planned and developed. Its opening date is still to be determined. It will be included in future basin report cards when enough data is available for it to be scored.

NA NA NA NA NA NA

NA = not available
I = Incomplete data

Score of River Authority Park Usage (83.9+123.2+142.8+130.8+173.1+121.1+141.6+69.7) / 8
= 123.3

Non-River Authority Park Usage Score:

List in order from furthest north to south throughout the basin.

Other Parks 2016-17 data 2017-18 data 2018-19 data 3-year average 2019-20 data Score
Government Canyon State Natural Area (est. visitors) 81,000 80,500 71,100 77,533 72,700 93.8
COSA Greenway Trails (trail counters for pedestrians and bicyclists) 309,191 268,099 258,610 278,633 385,403 138.3
COSA Parks (est. visitors) 53,269 102,692 93,121 83,027 77,320 93.1
Bexar County Parks (est. visitors) NA 216,265 225,410 220,838
(2-year average)
226,665 102.6
Goliad State Park (est. visitors) 50,700 46,500 49,600 48,933 36,900 75.4
Presidio La Bahia and Zaragoza Birthplace State Historic Site (est. visitors) NA 20,956 22,104 21,530
(2-year average)
15,811 73.4
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (est. visitors) 34,278 46,513 36,495 39,095 50,599 129.4

NA = not available

For this metric, the City of San Antonio’s Howard W. Peak Greenway Trails System score is based on combining the trail counter totals from the Leon Creek at Ingram Transit Center, Leon Creek at Prue, and Salado Creek at Blanco.

For this metric, the City of San Antonio Parks score is based on combining the estimated visitors to Walker Ranch Historic Landmark Park, McAllister Park, Brackenridge Park, Roosevelt Park, and Medina River Natural Area.

For this metric, the Bexar County Parks score is based on combining the estimated visitors to Mission County Park Pavilions, Mission County Park II, and Padre Park.

Total score for Non-River Authority Park Usage (93.8+138.3+93.1+102.6+75.5+73.4+129.4) / 7
= 100.9

Non-River Authority Park Usage Score:

Grade: A+
(123.3 + 100.9 / 2 = 112.1)

Key findings

Overall, park usage is up over 100% during Fiscal Year 2019-20 as compared with park usage data from previous fiscal years, which is a good indicator that citizens are getting outside and utilizing the nature-based and cultural park resources throughout the San Antonio River Basin. While there are many potential explanations for the increased usage of parks and green space throughout the basin, one likely reason is related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The uncertainty brought about by COVID-19 has caused anxiety, impacted plans, and altered lives in one way or another. For many, the tranquility of the outdoors has provided an escape from the stress of the current times. More people have been seen enjoying a walk, run, bike ride, fishing, or paddle along the San Antonio River. COVID-19 has reminded us that our creeks, rivers, parks, and green spaces are woven into our life as places that we need for personal physical and mental wellbeing as well as our community’s economic strength.

Park Usage

Some data demonstrates a significant increase in park use over the last several months during the time of community-wide business shutdowns due to COVID-19. For example, trail counters along the Mission Reach registered nearly 124,000 hits this April and May. That equates to over 7,000 more users on the trails each week this year as compared to this same time a year ago, which is an 83% increase! A similar increase of use, likely due to COVID-19, was seen along the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trails System as well. After an initial downturn in paddling due to COVID-19 shutdowns, Paddling along the river is also showing signs of growing as people (practicing social distancing) are taking to kayaking to get fresh air and disconnect from virtual learning and remote work in order to relax along the river.

Not all parks saw an increase in usage that is likely attributable to COVID-19 lockdowns. In fact, some parks likely experienced a decrease in usage due to the pandemic. The differential in the data for this report card between parks that experienced an increase in visitation during the COVID-19 lockdown versus those that saw a decrease in attendance appears to be that parks that are primarily used for outdoor recreation (e.g. the Mission Reach) experienced more visitors whereas parks that are primarily a destination (e.g. Presidio La Bahia) or used as an event or group sporting location (e.g. Mission Park Pavilions or the special use athletic fields at Helton Nature Park) experienced a decrease in visitors.

Report Card CTA Background

SHOW YOUR RIVER PRIDE

MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Find out more about sustainability and getting involved in helping protect your river, including watershed cleanup projects, building a rain garden, and much more.