SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – It’s been ten years of work, some controversy and a bond issue, but the $23 million land bridge, the largest wildlife crossing in the United States, is now open at Phil Hardberger Park in San Antonio’s North Side.
The Robert L.B. Tobin Land Bridge over Wurzbach Parkway opened Friday with no formal ceremony or major celebration because of COVID-19, but people were in the park, ready to use the wildlife crossing when the construction barrels were removed.
Former Mayor Phil Hardberger, who raised $10 million in private donations for the land bridge , says it’s one of the largest projects he’s worked on and he was pleased to see people enjoying it on opening day.
When he first started working on the land bridge project, it was mired in controversy. Opponents called it the “critter bridge” while complaining that the money would be better spent on the basics–streets, drainage and potholes, but in 2017, voters approved $13 million in funding.
Hardberger says the bridge has an important function, allowing pedestrians and natural habitat to travel safely between both sides of the 300-acre park that’s divided by six lanes on Wurzbach Parkway.
“Now the animals can go wherever they want to go,” said Hardberger. “They can go to one side for water. They can go to the other side for particular foliage that they enjoy eating.”
Frequent visitors also will be able to the see the maturation of the vegetation that’s being planted in the area.
“To make animals want to go across it and feel at home, they’ve got to feel dirt under their hooves and have plants around them that they can eat,” Hardberger said
Crews are planting cedar elms and Texas Live Oaks in the area.
“You’ll find that throughout the park, as well. They’re very hearty, very strong. They withstand a lot of heat,” said Hardberger.
Crews also are putting the finishing touches on the unique Skywalk, which Hardberger expects to be complete in about two weeks.
“The skywalk starts quite a ways down and ascends so that you’re walking through the trees themselves. You’re in the trees as you’re walking,” said Hardberger.
He said when the vegetation and the trees are grown, the land bridge will look like a hill, blending in with the park. When it’s all said and done, he believes this will be one of the most iconic sites in San Antonio, behind the Alamo and the River Walk.
What you should know about the land bridge at Phil Hardberger Park :
- Hours of operation for the land bridge and Phil Hardberger Park are sunrise to sunset.
- Larger than normal crowds are expected for opening weekend of the land bridge. Park visitors should wear masks and maintain at least six feet of distance from individuals outside of their household while at the park.
- Individuals are asked to stay home if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or illness.
- Visitors may access the Robert L.B. Tobin Land Bridge crossing from the Northwest Military park entrance (8400 NW Military Highway) via the Savanna Loop trail or from the Blanco Road entrance (13203 Blanco Road) via the Water Loop trail. Park greeters will be on hand to help direct visitors to the Land Bridge.
- The shortest distances along the trails to the Land Bridge are half a mile. Visitors should prepare to walk at least one-mile round trip.
- Visitors should bring plenty of water to drink, wear comfortable walking or hiking shoes and dress appropriately for the weather.
- Parking for the Land Bridge and Phil Hardberger Park is available at both park entrances and at 1201 Voelcker Ln.; however, it is limited. Parking is not available on Wurzbach Parkway.
- The park is also accessible via the Salado Creek Greenway. Cyclists are welcome on the bridge but must walk their bicycles across.
- Hardberger Park’s new Skywalk feature, an elevated walkway which gently climbs through the treetops connecting pedestrians with the Land Bridge, is still under construction and is set to open before the end of the year. It will not be accessible opening weekend.
- City of San Antonio Parks & Recreation Department staff will be on-site to help guide people and educate visitors on the importance of trail etiquette in our natural areas and will offer take-home packets with nature-based activities to commemorate the historic bridge opening.