South Side Lions Park is a 600-acre tract that was purchased by the City from the estate of George W. Brackenridge in 1944 and 1964. The park, also known as Hi-Lions Park, takes it name from the organization that worked to preserve the area for public park land. In 1944, the City purchased 346.45 acres from the Brackenridge estate for the purpose of a landfill. Residents of the Highland Park area and members of the Highland Park Lions Club successfully petitioned the City to use the land as a park instead of a garbage dump. Prior to development of the park, 22 acres were deeded in 1953 to the San Antonio Independent School District for construction of Highlands High School.
The area adjacent to Salado Creek was cleared in 1956 for a picnic area and a 33-acre sports center was developed. Service clubs and citizens donated funds to purchase some 400 trees that were planted in 1957. The City bought the remainder of the Brackenridge estate tract in 1964, and throughout the 1960s, improvements were made to the park. A recreation center, softball fields, tennis facility, dam and 10-acre lake were built on the property. In 1986, Community Development Block Grant funds were used to build a gymnasium and to upgrade the community center that was dedicated on November 1, 1986.
Trails and lighting improvements were provided with funds from the 1994 Quality of Life bond issue. A new playground was also constructed and further additions and improvements were made to the community center, including renovation of the gym and a dance studio/multi-use room.
In 2010, the City completed a $3,548,289 project that rehabilitated the dam and spillway in South Side Lions Park. The project involved the raising of the park’s earthen dam approximately two feet, adding a concrete labyrinth and spillway, adding rock riprap for erosion control, re-routing a 24-inch water line under Salado Creek, and providing tree wells for Bald Cypress trees along the dam. The project addressed the failure of the previous earthen dam with the construction of a new spillway to alleviate the potential for downstream flooding. The funds came from Housing and Urban Development 108 Community Block Grants, Unified Development Code fees, 2007 Certificates of Obligation, 1999 Park Bonds, 2005 Water Revenue Bonds and the San Antonio Water System.
Also in 2010, the City dedicated the Southern Segment of a new Salado Creek Greenway with a trailhead at South Side Lions. The trailhead is located just east of the lake off Pecan Valley. The multi-use trail, which also has trailheads at Covington and Comanche county Parks, offers stunning views of Salado Creek, surrounded by towering bottomland hardwood trees and natural, flowing springs that run from the adjacent hillside to the creek. The total length of the 10-foot wide trail is 2.3 miles. The project was funded through Proposition 3 and Proposition 2 sales tax initiatives at a cost of $2,847,000.
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