If, like me, you enjoy witnessing the metamorphosis, come down to the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River over the holidays to check out the transformation underway. More than 3,000 native tree saplings have been planted about two miles south of the new LED lights on the River Walk, an apt backdrop to restoring “the meander” to the San Antonio River.
For years the San Antonio River south of downtown was treated like a drainage ditch. But no more. With the $246 million Mission Reach investment of public and private funds overseen by the San Antonio River Authority (SARA), the River will once again flow as a riffle-riddled stream, home to a diversity of birds, other wildlife, and yes: butterflies.
No official butterfly habitat has been declared, says Lee Marlowe, Natural Resource Management Specialist for SARA. Yet these early stages of the Mission Reach improvements are “habitat restoration projects, so the entire areas support numerous butterfly species,” she says. I like the sound of that.
Marlowe provided a Mission Reach plant list that spells good news for future generations of butterflies: Milkweed, Purple Coneflower, Cut Leaf Daisy, Sunflowers, Goldenrod, and several clovers are included. Host and nectar plants dot the list of 39-species. So do dozens of native trees and grasses.
When complete, the project will add eight miles of nature trails to San Antonio, connecting four of our historic missions to each other via hike and bike trails and restoring and restoring 334 acres of riparian woodland. City leadership also hopes the south side Mission Reach, combined with the north bound Museum Reach, will connect the north and south sides of our city to each with the San Antonio River as a common thread. See the video above for an overview of the project.
A sense of community has already taken root along the trails as regulars walk their dogs, jog, ride bikes and enjoy the riffles. The same goes for wildlife: more trees, wildflowers and a restored River mean more insects and aquatic life. Snowy egrets, Greater Blue Heron, ducks and Cormorants have all taken up residence on the Mission Reach so they can enjoy the bounty. An increased butterfly population is not far behind.