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 Justin Moore of Airborne Aerial Photography | provided by the Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy

CONSERVATION

Land Bridge Connects Park in San Antonio

In December, the largest U.S. land bridge in an urban setting designed to accommodate both people and animals will open in San Antonio. The completed structure will connect and restore valuable remaining pieces of the city’s oak savanna landscape and serve as a safe passageway for native wildlife.

Since 2010, 330-acre Phil Hardberger Park in San Antonio has provided a refuge for those seeking an outdoor haven, but the property has one drawback: it’s divided by the Wurzbach Parkway. The new land bridge will connect the two sides.

Pedestrians and wildlife will now traverse a nature-immersed bridge, avoiding traffic below. The vegetated bridge will be 150 feet wide and will add more than an acre of parkland.

The park’s division by the roadway makes it difficult for wildlife survival and daily movement because animals can either get hit by oncoming traffic or fail to cross out of fear or intimidation, says Laura Zebehazy, TPWD program leader for wildlife habitat assessment.

Before it was a park, the land was Max and Minnie Voelcker’s dairy farm. When the couple passed away and the land went up for sale, it became the perfect opportunity for Phil Hardberger — who had recently started his second term as San Antonio’s mayor — to create more city green space.

“I’m happy we bought it when we did because if we hadn’t, that land would have been filled with houses and developments,” Hardberger says. “From that day until now, I have never seen any other land come on the market that was perfect for a park. We’d probably still be waiting.”

The bridge project cost $23 million, pulling from the Hardberger Park Conservancy’s donations and grants along with funds from a 2017 city bond. Features will include a rainwater system to irrigate the bridge and park, a disability-accessible walking trail and newly planted trees and grasses.

In the past few decades, wildlife crossings have been built in several western states and Canada as a way to restore wildlife connectivity across roadways.


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