Mission Reach Self-Guided Tour Mission Concepción Portal Loop and Mission Reach Phase II Embayment Loop

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1 Mission Reach Self-Guided Tour Mission Concepción Portal Loop and Mission Reach Phase II Embayment Loop Welcome to the Mission Reach! The Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Project is transforming an eight mile stretch of the San Antonio River into a quality riparian woodland ecosystem. The Mission Reach is a $245.7 million project that has been made possible through the collaboration of Bexar County, the City of San Antonio, the San Antonio River Authority (SARA), the San Antonio River Foundation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Design of the Mission Reach Project was directed by a citizen stakeholder group called the San Antonio River Oversight Committee to ensure that the project incorporated the needs of the local community. The Mission Reach Project has four primary objectives. First, the project seeks to maintain or improve flood protection for residents and businesses surrounding the river. Second, the project intends to improve ecosystem function on the San Antonio River by restoring riverine features and riparian woodlands, reintroducing native plants and enhancing aquatic habitat. Third, the project aims to provide additional recreational opportunities for the San Antonio community to enjoy their river. Finally, the project hopes to restore former historical and cultural connections that tied the San Antonio Missions with the river that brought them here. This self-guided tour will introduce you to a portion of Phase I and all of Phase II of the Mission Reach. Phase I was open to the public in December 2010 while Phase II was open to the public in June This tour will start and end at Confluence Park, where you can find parking. Additionally, you may choose the shorter Mission Concepción Portal Loop or the longer Mission Reach Phase II Embayment Loop. Enjoy! Mission Concepción Portal Loop Distance: 1 mile Mission Concepción Portal Loop Length: 45 minutes 1 hour Mission Reach Phase II Embayment Loop Distance: 2 miles Mission Reach Phase II Embayment Loop Length: 1 ¼ 1 ¾ hours

2 1. Confluence Park The currently empty land in front of the parking lot was purchased from CPS Energy for use as an equipment staging ground during the construction of Phase I. Once the land was no longer needed for that purpose, it was turned back over to the San Antonio River Foundation (SARF). SARF will renovate the area, and they plan to construct a number of features including an overlook, solar panels for energy, sculptures, lighting, interactive water elements, pathways, a footbridge and an outdoor pavilion. 2. Quatrefoil The symbol that you see etched into the sidewalk is called the quatrefoil. In French, the word quatrefoil means four leaves, which comes from its shape. The quatrefoil was chosen as the unifying symbol for the Mission Reach because of its importance in the architecture of the San Antonio Missions, particularly as it relates to the famous La Ventana de Rosa, or the Rose Window, at Mission San José. Other sections of the river use this symbol, but with subtle changes. For example, the River Walk uses this logo with a 5 pointed star in the middle. 3. Phase I Vegetation Now is a good time to stop and take note of the Phase I vegetation. One facet of ecosystem restoration is planting native vegetation, whose roles in the ecosystem include food and habitat for animals, reducing erosion and improving water quality. This area was one of the first to be seeded (Fall 2010) and has greater plant diversity and density than areas further downstream that were planted later. Not only does the vegetation change over distance, but visitors can see the vegetation develop perpetually in the future. The small trees you can see were planted in November Over 3,000 saplings were planted in Phase 1 and in the ensuing decades they will mature and together with the grassland vegetation will form a healthy riparian ecosystem. 4. Riffles On this walking tour, you will pass several rocky areas in the river, which are features known as riffles. Riffles are areas where the velocity of the water is faster and the depth is shallower than average. Riffles are important habitats for aquatic insects, the primary food source for larger fish. Riffles also provide water quality benefits for wildlife by increasing the oxygen content of the water. Riffles were placed back into the channel during this project, because the river s original riffles were removed by flood control efforts in the 1950s and 60s. 5. Pedestrian Bridge The appearance of this bridge was augmented by the detailed artistry of Anne Wallace with funding for the additional artwork coming from the San Antonio River Foundation. The title of this artwork is The Once and Future River. The title comes from the images of native plants and animals that have been sand blasted into the concrete using a very precise stenciling technique. The images depict some of the many species that lived in the San Antonio River before it was damaged by flood control efforts in the 1950s and that should return to the River through restoration.

3 6. Water Edge Landing The new trails help people get closer to the San Antonio River than they could in the past, but in many places, vegetation still separates the sidewalk from the water. Water edge landings give people a way to approach the river, observe wildlife and listen to the water s movements. While you are encouraged to use these landings to experience the river more fully, you should not attempt to go swimming or enter the water from them. Currently, the City of San Antonio has an ordinance prohibiting swimming and wading in the river within the city limits. Discussions have started between SARA and the City to possibly allow for wading along the Mission Reach in designated areas, and in time, these water edge landings will become perfect locations for this activity. 7. Confluence of San Pedro Creek This is where San Pedro Creek meets the San Antonio River. By this point, San Pedro Creek has already been joined by three other creeks that drain most of the west side of San Antonio. In the 1960s, these tributaries to the San Antonio River underwent the same alterations in the name of flood control as the main channel. SARA is currently involved in the Westside Creeks Restoration Project that seeks to increase the habitat, recreational and aesthetic value of these tributaries, enhancing their importance to the surrounding communities. Future plans include a trail to connect the San Antonio River to these creeks beginning here at San Pedro Creek confluence. 7. Point Bar The build-up of gravel on the opposite bank is a natural depositional feature of rivers called a point bar. Healthy rivers maintain a balance between the dynamic forces of erosion and deposition. After the San Antonio River was channelized for flood control, these processes were no longer balanced. But the new formation of point bars on the Mission Reach provides evidence that the river is returning to a natural, dynamic and functioning system. 7. Pool When you look at the river, the places that appear to be much slower and deeper are channel features called pools. Pools provide habitat for larger fish, particularly during hot and dry months when water in the pools is cooler and deeper than other parts of the river. Pools also improve water quality by allowing sediments to settle to the bottom, increasing water clarity and removing other pollutants attached to sediments. Over time, the depth of the pools will change as sediment fills them and flood events scour them out.

4 8. Mission Portal The path that leads away from the river will take you to the Mission Concepción Portal. Eventually, there will be one portal at each of the four historic missions, which will provide a physical and symbolic connection between the mission and the Mission Reach. If you climb to the top of this outlook, you can see the top of Mission Concepción. The portals are carefully designed by artists, architects, landscape architects and historians. The San Antonio River Foundation also contributed funds to add some artistic enhancements to the portal. Stacy Levy is the artist who has been commissioned by the San Antonio River Foundation to contribute to the creation of this connection between the San Antonio River and Mission Concepción. Levy's works use sculptural forms that evoke the shapes and forms of natural processes and patterns from nature. For the Concepción Portal, the artist s primary concept is to create an experience that combines the beautiful limestone of the Mission with the flowing forms of the River. 9. Concepción Park South of the portal, you will notice Theo Ave. crossing the river. As part of this project, Theo Ave. was realigned to allow for a seamless connection between the river along the Mission Reach Project and Concepción Park. This realignment also minimized traffic through residential areas and expanded the street to accommodate increasing traffic to a new sports complex funded by the Bexar County Venue Tax on nearby property owned by the Archdiocese. Other improvements to Concepción Park funded by the City will complement the recreational activities on the Mission Reach. 10.Tour Mid-point From this point, if you continue east walking through the Mission Concepción Portal and Concepción Park you will arrive at Mission Concepción as part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. If you continue south under Theo Ave., you will reach the end of Phase II in about half a mile. This concludes the Mission Concepcion Portal Loop, so you may now turn north to go back to Confluence Park, or If you are feeling adventurous, travel on and see the Mission Reach Phase II Embayment Loop. 11. Signage Something that you may have noticed on your tour today are the vertical way-finding signs. Regardless of whether you continue south or you decide to go north to the downtown River Walk area and beyond, you will find cohesive signage along every developed part of the San Antonio River. The San Antonio River Oversight Committee worked for several years to develop consistent and unified themes, symbols and messaging for all current and future informational and directional signage along the San Antonio River. 12. Phase II Vegetation Compare this area, planted in Spring 2011, with the more mature vegetation of Phase I. Over time, this area will diversify as more of the 69 species of grasses and wildflowers become established. After two growing seasons, small trees will be planted in this area as well. Small trees are more resistant to flooding: as young trees develop in the floodplain, they will grow deep roots to adapt to periodic flooding and drought conditions.

5 13. Irrigation The black and purple pipes that you see traversing the vegetated areas are part of a drip irrigation system. While native plants do not need to be watered after establishment, it is imperative that plants are initially grown quickly to prevent exposed soil from eroding into the river and minimize the number of non-native, invasive plants from entering the area. Once the plants meet the establishment criteria, the drip system will be largely abandoned in place and over time with safely degrade, but some of the re-usable materials, including the pumps, will be removed. 14. Fly-Over Bridge Across the river from this point you can see Concepción Creek. Plans are underway to use Bexar County Venue Tax funding to build a trail on the opposite bank. These plans include a fly-over bridge spanning Concepción Creek. Additionally, a portion of the concrete lined creek that outfalls into the San Antonio River will be removed and restored to a more natural looking and functioning confluence. 15. Embayment - An embayment is a water body that is adjacent to the river, but has still water instead of flowing water. Embayments provide a different aquatic habitat than rivers, thus supporting a greater diversity of plants, water birds, fish and aquatic insects. Embayments also improve water quality by allowing pollutants to settle out and become taken up by plants. As a part of the Mission Reach Project, over 10 acres of embayments will be created. 16. Pavilion This beautiful pavilion is one of many recreational amenities which also include river overlooks and picnic areas that are placed appropriately for interesting views and connections to the environment. It s a great spot to take a break in the shade and enjoy the view, forgetting for a moment that you are near the heart of the 7 th largest city in the United States. 17. Pedestrian Bridge The Mission Reach Phase II Embayment Loop ends here at the pedestrian bridge. You may turn around here and return to Confluence Park or choose to cross the pedestrian bridge continuing south and visit the rest of Phase II, which ends at another wonderful pavilion near the Mission Road street connection. Beyond that point, Phase III of the Mission Reach Project is still under construction with a completion date targeting the Fall of Plans are underway to build a trail along the west bank of the river connecting this pedestrian bridge northward to Theo Ave.

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