Board Insights: Jerry Gonzales of Bexar County

The River Authority
Jul 26, 2022
General

Read Time: 4.5 minutes

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.

Jerry Gonzales Portrait

Jerry Gonzales, Bexar County District 1

Jerry G. Gonzales was born and raised on the Southside of San Antonio and attended Harlandale High School. He is a manager for HEB grocery company and has been with the company for 34 years. Mr. Gonzales has been an advocate for the Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Project and a strong supporter of the Westside Creeks Restoration Project. He has been a board member of the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority), representing Bexar County District 1 since 2013. His current term expires in 2025.

What value does the San Antonio River Authority provide to the community?

The River Authority brings tremendous value to the San Antonio River Basin Watershed (also known as the San Antonio River Basin) from the headwaters of the river to the bay and estuary at the Gulf Coast. The River Authority works diligently to improve the water quality and habitat of the San Antonio River through Bexar County as well as the Southern Basin counties: Wilson, Karnes, and Goliad.

The Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration Project restored the aquatic and riparian ecology of eight miles of the river through the Southside of San Antonio. Prior to the restoration, the river was a barren flood channel lined with Bermuda grass, while the river channel had large chunks of concrete riprap along the banks to keep the river from creating natural bends and turns. The Mission Reach applied contemporary engineering principles with technical engineering and precision to recreate pool, riffle, run sequences, and meanders that typically occur naturally in a healthy river system.

The San Pedro Creek Culture Park (Culture Park) is another example of the River Authority partnering with Bexar County and the City of San Antonio to deliver a project that is transforming a drainage ditch into a world-class culture park using water quality and flood mitigation as the underlying foundational components. The project is returning the creek to a more natural state while maintaining or improving flood control. The project includes bioswales and stormwater interceptors which reduce contaminants such as E.coli and trash from entering the creek when they are transported in stormwater.

Bioswales are some of the sustainable features included at San Pedro Creek Culture Park

Sustainable features, such as the bioswale shown above, can be seen all along San Pedro Creek Culture Park

How can we make sure the San Antonio River is preserved for future generations?

In my mind, there are several ways each of us can make sure the San Antonio River is preserved for future generations. First and foremost, please take your families and friends to the river or the creek greenway trails so they can see how beautiful they are and all the wildlife that is in our backyard. Getting our children and grandchildren to be outside in nature will instill in them, at an early age, the desire to enjoy and protect these amazing natural resources.

Second, as a society, we need to be more intentional about putting trash in its proper place, i.e., trashcans and recycling containers. There is too much trash on our streets, highways, parking lots, and sidewalks that ultimately ends up in our creeks and rivers. Teaching young ones to respect our environment through our own daily actions will help make sure we “Don’t Let Litter Trash Your River.”

Keeping trash out of the environment and out of our creeks and rivers is a good first step in making the San Antonio River swimmable again in our cities. Residents of several generations ago would swim and splash in the San Antonio River. The river went through some bad times in the 1970s, but with the passage of the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the River Authority’s focus on water quality, the river has recovered and is thriving. If we continue this trajectory, there will come a time when we’ll once again see people swimming in the river.

 

What is the best way to interact with the San Antonio River?

Fishing on the San Antonio River along the Mission Reach in San Antonio or in the Southern Basin counties can be a rewarding experience. Fishermen and women along the Mission Reach are likely to catch the State Fish of Texas: the Guadalupe Bass. The River Authority, working with the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife Department, reintroduced the Guadalupe Bass to the river several years ago, and today, there is a reproducing population. The River Authority strongly recommends a catch and release method, so more people get to enjoy fishing in the 7th largest city in the U.S. In the Southern Basin, channel catfish are frequently caught. River Authority staff and community members have hauled in some large catfish. Several years ago, there were reports of some people ‘noodling’ for catfish on the San Antonio River down around Goliad.

Two men fish alongside the Mission Reach area of the San Antonio River

People enjoy fishing along the river.

Kayaking on the San Antonio River is another great form of river recreation. There are 55 miles of paddling trails on the river, providing a wonderful way to get a new perspective of the river and wildlife throughout the river basin. You definitely feel part of nature and more connected when paddling the river.

Name an interesting fact about the San Antonio River Basin that most people might not know.

The San Antonio River runs 240 miles from the headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico. There is so much to explore along the full length of the San Antonio River, such as the tournament-level disc golf course at the River Authority’s Graytown Park in Wilson County, Escondido Creek Parkway in Karnes County, or the Goliad Paddling Trail in Goliad County. Each of these places offers unique experiences and they are just a short Texas drive away.


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.

If you wish to be placed on the mailing list for River Reach, please contact us or complete the form.