Bexar County Commissioners Support Greenway Trails Expansion
Bexar County Commissioners voted on Tuesday to approve a resolution to support connecting 26 additional miles of creek trails to the already existing 80 miles of the Howard Peak Greenway trail system.
But funding could be an issue as the COVID-19 pandemic takes a toll on county property tax revenue. Businesses have been forced to reduce operations or close, and property values have declined.
Commissioners during the summer budget process put a freeze on any new capital improvement projects until at least April 2021, when the pandemic’s impact will be better known as property tax revenue rolls in.
County Judge Nelson Wolff was among those to express his support for funding the San Antonio River Authority projects.
“Creeks and rivers, flood control, water quality, environment, recreational activities — it’s a tremendous step forward and have always been a very popular issue with the community,” he said.
County Commissioner Tommy Calvert abstained from the vote and asked county staff to weigh the creek trails against other county projects.
“It is very important that we look at roads, that we look at housing, that we look at youth centers with a generation that may be lost because of the educational year that we have lost,” he said.
Commissioners asked county staff to return in April 2021 with funding options for the creek trails and a report on their economic impact.
Wolff previously pledged county support for creek trails projects during a virtual campaign appearance to urge voter passage of Proposition B or “SA Ready To Work,” which shifts city sales tax revenue from aquifer protection to job retraining.
Wolff said the county would take over some of the city’s role of protecting the Edwards Aquifer and would support the creek trails projects as a form of aquifer protection after some San Antonio city leaders criticized the redirection of the sales tax revenue.
The aquifer is San Antonio’s main source of water.
Wolff has allied himself with San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and past mayors and with some city council members, local chambers of commerce, education leaders, community activists, and the San Antonio Catholic Archdiocese for passage of Proposition B.
The measure is seen as a way to help the tens of thousands of workers who lost their jobs to the pandemic find new jobs. About 85,000 were collecting unemployment in August.
Local leaders have said many of those job losses hit one of the city’s biggest industries — leisure and hospitality. Marriott Hotels, for example, recently laid off more than 700 workers at local hotels.
Nirenberg said many of those workers can learn higher skills for higher paying jobs.
He added that the training programs are ones sought by local industries to train local skilled workers to fill them.
“Targeted industries will include manufacturing, logistics, aerospace, bioscience, healthcare, financial services, technology, cyber security, construction, and trades,” Nirenberg said.
If Proposition B is approved, it would target 40,000 workers who lost their jobs for retraining. The training would also include stipends and daycare support to prevent trainees from dropping out due to economic reasons.