San Antonio residents are invited to connect with and learn about nature by participating in guided nature hikes and enjoying educational presentations during the grand opening celebration of the City’s first public Urban Ecology Center. The grand opening celebration for the Urban Ecology Center nestled in scenic Phil Hardberger Park West, 8400 N.W. Military Highway, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 8 a.m. to noon. The grand opening ceremony will be held inside the center in the Gathering Hall at 10 a.m.
Residents are invited to enjoy guided hikes through the park beginning at 8 a.m., 8:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. The hikes, led by the Sierra Club and the Alamo Area Master Naturalists, will be on the newly constructed Savanna Loop Trail, a 1.84 mile long natural surface trail.
More than two dozen organizations will present information on the spacious porch and deck and in the courtyard of the new facility from 9 a.m. to noon. Some of these include the Alamo Area Master Naturalists, the Alamo Area Master Gardeners, the Alamo Area Sierra Club, the Bexar Audubon Society, the San Antonio Audubon Society, Build San Antonio Green, the Edward’s Aquifer Authority, San Antonio Nature Hounds, the San Antonio River Authority, San Antonio Water Systems, Solar San Antonio, Texas Children in Nature, Camp Bow Wow, Camp Eco-Logic, Keep San Antonio Beautiful, Mitchell Lake Audubon Center, the Native Plant Society of Texas, the Parks and Recreation Department’s Volunteer Program and Natural Areas Education Programs, the City of San Antonio’s Office of Sustainability and the Solid Waste Management Department. The Not So Creepy Critters organization will be located inside the Urban Ecology Center classroom.
The Urban Ecology Center includes a multi-purpose classroom/community room, offices for center staff, a large gathering hall and restrooms. A nearly 100 space parking lot is also among the improvements. The model green building, designed by Lake/Flato Architects and built by Guido Brothers General Contractor, will feature a water harvesting and reclamation system, as well as solar panels on the roof.
Natural Area Education Programming and Fourth Saturday Programs offered by the Alamo Area Master Naturalists will continue to be held in the Salado Outdoor Classroom located on the eastside of the park at 13203 Blanco Rd. Educational Programming will occasionally be relocated to the new Urban Ecology Center’s Education Classroom during the winter and summer months.
The Gathering Hall will mainly be utilized for large events such as conferences, seminars or workshops. In the near future, both the Education Classroom and the Gathering Hall will be available for reservations.
The project was funded with a $1 million grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Certificates of Obligation, and bond funds approved by voters in the May 2012 bond election. Additionally, the San Antonio Water System dedicated $100,000 to a demonstration project at the center, where SAWS will provide educational sessions and classes focused on water conservation and showing water saving techniques implemented at the center.