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 personal connection to the San Antonio River in hopes of inspiring stewardship of area creeks and rivers.
Brian Wright, Senior Construction Inspector
What brought you to work for the River Authority?
When I was hired by the River Authority, I was a draftsman in San Antonio working for a few companies. I knew a little about the San Antonio River, but not much. I had lived in Austin and really enjoyed the trail system there, but I never knew it would be my career to build those kinds of things. I'm glad I hired on with the River Authority because there is some serendipity. I've been drawn toward bodies of water, whether spending time at Canyon Lake, walking around the shore and looking at things, and now, cycling along the Mission Reach. That's not why I initially hired on with the River Authority, but maybe that's why I've stayed so long. Otherwise, I may not have stayed so long.
Why do you enjoy working at the River Authority?
I've been an engineering technician and construction inspector with the River Authority for 32 years. There's a public service aspect of what we do - making the world a better place. That's what has helped hold me at the River Authority. We're not just chasing dollars. You can put your enthusiasm and passion behind your work because there's a reason to do it, and there's a public need for it. Few other developments are being built where a construction worker can take his family; they are office buildings or homes. When I'm out on site, the construction hands who are doing the work will ask, "What are we building?" I tell them, "This is a River Authority park that will be open to the public when we finish, so bring your family. It's for you" It's easy to get your passion behind that.
It's also gratifying to see the outside world's reaction to a project you helped build. For example, the project developing the River Walk from Houston Street to Lexington Street. Initially, there were just parking lots, and some river walls had fallen in. It's gratifying to me after doing that project and working so hard that when we did the Museum Reach, it sparked off development in ways that the Houston to Lexington project didn't.
Construction of the Museum Reach of the San Antonio River Walk.
The Engineering Design and Construction team at the River Authority has the set of plans that we hand to the company to build the project. Then, you need construction inspectors there to watch them. Construction inspection is quality assurance to ensure we're putting in the concrete here and checking the rebar there. But that's just one level. The other level is that we're looking out for the interests of the River Authority. My team makes sure the items are all there, but we also hopefully get the bigger picture of why we are doing the project. This way, the River Authority has a person on the ground for the projects looking out for the interests of the River Authority, the public, and the river itself.
In the construction world, before you get to safe, clean, and enjoyable, you have to do the demolition and make a mess. We are usually in the thick of a construction project, whether it's traditional concrete rebar or the softer natural channel design. First, the site has to be torn up and destroyed. It's not safe, clean, or enjoyable, but you must destroy something and put it back together before you get there. San Pedro Creek Culture Park is a good example of this process. It started out as a little drainage ditch that was completely torn out. In the section under construction, there's mud everywhere, rebar and concrete, drop-offs, and heavy equipment. But when you get done, you hopefully put it back together better than before.
Touring the construction of San Pedro Creek Culture Park.
What can community members do to help create more safe, clean, and enjoyable rivers?
There has to be a public will to do projects. The money has to come from somewhere. Contact your board members and officials and tell them that a project is important to you. Some of these projects take a long time to ferment, and it is the long-term process of building political and public will to gain support for them.
What is your favorite place to recreate along the river?
I've used the Mission Reach trails and the Museum Reach trails frequently, as well as the canoe chutes in the Mission Reach. I do a lot of recreating along the river in town, and it will be interesting to see if we can develop that downstream. I look forward to the River Authority developing new parks and trails in the future, especially single-track dirt trails since I've been riding more off-road recently.
Trees grow along a canoe chute on the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Walk near Confluence Park.
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.