San Antonio officials and Stone Oak-area residents gathered May 17 at Classen-Steubing Ranch Park to formally celebrate the opening of the city’s newest north side public park.
Funded with $9.15 million from the city’s voter-approved 2017 bond, Phase 1 of the park at 20202 Hardy Oak Blvd. features an array of recreational amenities and examples of environmental sustainability, city officials said.
Classen-Steubing Ranch Park includes walking trails, a small pavilion and parking lot close to the park entry, a larger pavilion with bathrooms, picnic tables, and a parking lot farther up from the entrance as well as one baseball field, two soccer fields and two softball fields.
The ball fields, Parks and Recreation Director Homer Garcia said, are free and open for use on a first-come, first-served basis and are not exclusively reserved by any specific organization.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg recalled how city leaders years ago debated the fate of part of the former Classen-Steubing Ranch, one of the last large chunks of undeveloped land in the growing Stone Oak area.
Nirenberg said then-District 9 Council Member Joe Krier, who represented the area in question, was among many community members who favored more park and public green space along with recreational amenities over more homes on the land.
“The councilman at the time stood up and said, ‘That would be an amazing park,’” Nirenberg said, referring to Krier. “So the ball began rolling.”
In 2016, the city spent $5.3 million in Edwards Aquifer protection program funds to buy 160 acres of former ranch land, which will remain undeveloped.
The city subsequently acquired an additional 44 acres, 39 of which were bought using some of the $9.15 million bond allocation, for phased public park development.
Krier told Community Impact that elected leaders “plant seeds” when they are in office, and having Classen-Steubing Ranch Park open is one example of seeing such an idea come to fruition.
“When you plant something, it’s nice to stick around and see the harvest,” he said.
Nirenberg also said researchers from The University of Texas at San Antonio will test a form of permeable pavement at the new park.
District 9 Council Member John Courage said the city’s voter-approved 2022 bond dedicated $6 million toward a second phase of Classen-Steubing Ranch Park development. Courage said it is important to maximize public use of the new park, which is the third such public park for the Stone Oak area.
“A park in one district is really a park for the entire city,” Courage said.
Classen-Steubing Ranch Park will also host Mitchell’s Landing, which organizers call the city’s first all-inclusive public children’s playground.
Under development by Tennessee-based playground manufacturer PlayCore, the pirate-themed playground is the creation of local nonprofit Mitchell Chang Foundation, led by area residents April and Marvin Chang.
The foundation has raised more than $1.5 million to build and install the playground for children of all abilities as a tribute to their son, who drowned at a north side swim school at age 3 in 2018.
April Chang told Community Impact that local work crews tentatively plan to begin installing the prefabricated playground on a 1-acre plot inside the park as early as June.
Garcia said, considering the weather and other factors, the city aims to have the playground fully open to the public in the fall.
Garcia also said this fall will see the beginning of public planning efforts, including community meetings, toward Phase 2 of the park’s development.
Chang told Community Impact that she and fellow area residents hope to push for funding to install a shade structure at the Mitchell’s Landing playground. Chang said cost estimates for an adequate shade structure run $250,000 to $500,000.
Garcia also said the city will seek input from area residents about what else they would like to see at the new park in the way of amenities.
“It was clear from the beginning that we had to connect to Stone Oak Park ... and make sure we had more and more fields,” Garcia said, referring to Classen-Steubing Ranch Park’s ball fields as well as its trails connecting with those from nearby Stone Oak Park.