This piece is co-contributed by Frates Seeligson, Executive Director of the San Antonio River Foundation (River Foundation), the San Antonio River Authority’s nonprofit partner. Established in 2003, the River Foundation focuses on four main pillars that guide our work: education, ecology, arts and culture, and recreation. Each of these pillars directs the projects we embark on and ensures that we continually strive to achieve their mission of increasing environmental equity and promoting environmental stewardship of the San Antonio River Basin.
They say that time flies, and I can hardly argue. This March will mark the fifth anniversary of the opening of Confluence Park. Since March 2018, this nationally recognized park has brought art and culture, education, native ecology, and recreation to the south side of San Antonio along the banks of the San Antonio River.
Through the efforts of the River Foundation and River Authority, what once was a fenced-out CPS Energy laydown yard is now a much-loved park bringing a sense of pride to our entire community. A River Foundation initiative, Confluence Park was designed by Lake|Flato Architects, Matsys Design, and Rialto Studios. With a goal to “show” rather than “tell,” the park allows visitors to experience and learn first-hand the vital importance of native ecology to healthy river systems, the role of sustainable design and best management practices can play in good stewardship of our environment, and how we can apply this knowledge in our own neighborhoods and daily choices. For example, did you know the entire three-acre park is a rainwater catchment system? The artfully designed pavilions help capture rainwater and divert it to an underground storage system. From there, the rainwater is used for irrigation and in the park’s restrooms, minimizing the park’s impact on the Edwards Aquifer.
The onsite Estela Avery Education Center has a green roof with a 14kW solar panel array and 10-inch-thick concrete walls, two of four of which are built into the side of the earth. All these measures help reduce the park’s energy demands, allowing Confluence Park to give back more energy than it consumes in a year.
Besides the built features, programming and activation of Confluence Park are critical to the mission of the River Foundation. Since opening five years ago, more than 79 thousand visitors have attended events at the park. The River Foundation has partnered with more than 140 area nonprofits, bringing diverse cultural, environmental, and educational experiences to the banks of our River. Summer art camps, prose and poetry camps, musical productions, free movie nights, tree giveaways, GED classes, market days, back-to-school fairs, and, of course, Sunday yoga – there is always something going on at Confluence Park. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to sign up to receive our email with updates on upcoming park events.
In conjunction with the world-class education team at the River Authority, more than 130 different schools representing 21 independent school districts have come to Confluence Park for educational field trips. Realizing that transportation costs and substitute teacher fees are a hurdle for many schools, the River Foundation offers reimbursement through our Estela Avery Education Endowment, ensuring no student is denied the opportunity to visit and learn. Students spend hours outside, away from their classrooms, learning about science, native ecology, and how their choices matter. Armed with this knowledge, these future leaders have a better understanding of the relationship we all have with our environment and how best to steward it.
This academic school year, spots for River Authority-led field trips were entirely filled in two hours! To say there is a need is a tremendous understatement. It is the goal of the River Foundation and River Authority to continue to find ways to expand our educational outreach, but we can’t do it alone. Donations to the River Foundation directly support all the free programming and outreach, like that of school field trips, at Confluence Park. Please visit sariverfound.org to learn how you can join us!
It has been a great pleasure watching the park grow over these last five years, and we are excited to see what the next five years and beyond will bring. Just as in nature, Confluence Park is ever-evolving– it is a living park for all of us. Whether it is your first time or your hundredth, we invite you to visit and experience the peaceful beauty of the park and our San Antonio River.
Upcoming Events at Confluence Park
Talleres de Mujeres at Confluence Park
Free Therapeutic Workshops
10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
- Spring March 4-5
- Summer June 3-4
- Fall: September 2-3
- Winter December 2-3
Register at www.poderosarising.org
Creative Confluence | A Spirited Festival of Nature, Music, Poetry, Storytelling, Hands-on Art, Yoga, and Dance
- Saturday, March 11
- 3-6 PM at Confluence Park
Birdie Big Year: Elevation Women Birders featuring Tiffany Kersten
- Friday, March 17 at 6:00 PM
- Confluence Park