The San Antonio land bridge opening was announced at the Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy, and it was about time for another trip to San Antonio.
When you think of a land bridge there are preconceived notions about what to expect, but what wasn’t expected was how lovely the park was even in the city limits.
The newness was definitely there, but the facilities, the trail signs, and the informative kiosks made this park a must-visit for anyone in the city or for a day trip.
The park itself is a gem of conservation. Throughout the park you’ll see signs that relay the efforts the park is undertaking to conserve resources including water and electricity.
The Ecological Center at the conservancy is certified LEED Gold, which means they are a leader in the energy and environmental design category.
You’ll see water draining throughout the park, you’ll learn about smart decisions in the parking lot, and even how they’re using sunlight for energy.
Recreation at Phil Hardberger Park
There are over seven miles of trails at this park for hiking and biking, and because this is more of a city park, there’s no real chance of losing your way. The trails here are marked amazingly with informative posts that tell you grade information too!
Each trailhead also has the name of the trail on the ground that blends in with the natural environment.
While bikes are allowed, there are multiple sections here that require you to walk your bikes, but those areas are clearly noted.
There is also a sizeable dog park here, plenty of picnic areas, a playground, and plenty of events to keep your family busy throughout the year.
One of the other neat things about this park is with their partnership with the Alamo Master Naturalist society. (Here’s a plant guide for the park)
There is a wildscape garden here, and according to the park website, ‘The PHP Wildscape Demonstration Garden serves as a teaching garden to showcase native Texas plants to our community. The intent is to encourage all to contribute to conservation in Texas by restoring their urban and rural landscapes to native habitat by planting for wildlife”.
Golden Age Art Installation
The land used for the Phil Hardberger park was once a dairy farm, and Anne Wallace repurposed irrigation wheels to showcase some of the important aspects of the grasses, and maintaining them.
“For more than 100 years this land was a family dairy farm and cattle ranch. Before that it was part of an enormous prairie ecosystem shaped by two elemental forces: grass fires and the mass migration of buffalo… Golden Age creates a flickering effect that alludes to the natural phenomenon of wildfire.” ~ Anne Wallace, 2013
Indeed it does. The light here sparkles down on the grass below, and once the grasses here are tall enough the light will reflect onto the top creating an illumination illusion of life and the fire that brings back life.
These wheel are in different sections, but all in the general area of the ecological center.
The Phil Hardberger Ecological Center
The 18,600 square-foot building offers educational areas for classes and meetings in the heart of the park. But it is also the gem of the ecological initiatives. Here you’ll find additional picnic areas for relaxing or studying, and at this point you’re pretty close to the NW Military Highway entrance.
The center can be rented out for a variety of events, and that information can be found here.
This was a favorite area of the park as it showcases a lot of what the park is doing for the city of San Antonio. Educate, inform, and entertain the local community and visitors alike.
Phil Hardberger Land Bridge
All land bridges are useful and remarkable structures that allow for connectivity across gaps for humans and wildlife alike. That needs to be clear. The area here sole purpose was to eliminate the gap and connect the two parts of the park on either side of the busy road.
That being said- from a visual perspective the land bridge differed from the mock-ups that were showcased on the website.
Flat land with lush landscapes were depicted on the site, and that seemed to be in-line with other land-bridges that are able to be viewed online.
And while the landscape here was still under construction, the area itself was still pretty neat to hike on.
The trail meanders on a paved sidewalk, but there’s no other place to venture off to except for a couple of restrooms on either side. It’s not an open area that feels more like park space to wonder around, and the trees being planted made it feel a bit staged, not as natural as the rest of the park.
Though the animals may not mind, and humans will definitely not mind, the large metal walls that rise up from either side of the bridge mostly blocking the traffic down below create a bit of a barrier to the natural space.
A feature that was still in production, but will be amazing once opened, is the sky bridge. A metal walkway the travels through the trees, in the air, parallel to the main bridge section. Not sure if the wildlife will be able to navigate as it was still blocked by metal fencing.
In the video below you should get a better idea about the layout of the land, but know it’s still a really neat place in the park.
The park’s namesake has a special tribute at the park in the form of a towering oak tree just off the main path at the park.
The entrance to Phil’s tree was unmarked, but if you’re paying close attention you’ll see the manmade pathway leading you to it.
At the tree there’s a marker that tells the story about how the park came about, and a bench to sit under the shade and rest, or visit with a friend and share a story, or just look around in wonder about the beauty of this park in the heart of San Antonio.
You can learn more about the Phil Hardberger Park here: https://www.philhardbergerpark.org/
Learn more places to hike in Texas in the Ultimate Hiking Guide