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  • Chris Belcher

Green Spaces Alliance Hosted San Antonio’s First Nature Fest

Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas hosted its first Nature Fest at Mission County Park Saturday.

Nature Fest brought San Antonians together with more than a dozen local organizations to learn about and celebrate San Antonio’s environment.

“Nature Fest is an opportunity for San Antonians to come out and celebrate the environment, which is the big thing that we all have in common. It brings us all together. It ties everyone on the planet together,” said Grace Carlin, Green Spaces Alliance’s urban land & water manager. “We want people to celebrate nature in the way that makes most sense to them. Whether that's getting out for a run early in the morning or taking a walk and finding interesting natural features along a trail, or making art out of leaves and twigs and rocks and flowers.”

Charles Blank and Tonée V. of River Aid San Antonio assist a Nature Fest attendee with weighing litter collected from the San Antonio River watershed the evening prior to the fest. Photo: Chris Belcher

River Aid San Antonio and Green Spaces Alliance volunteers kicked-off Nature Fest Friday evening with a litter clean up along San Antonio’s Mission Reach up-river from Padre Park. Nature Fest attendees were able to weigh the trash collected Friday evening at the Fest the next day with a total weight of over 800 pounds removed from the watershed.

Saturday’s events included a 5k race and educational challenge walk. Participants were also able to engage with organizations to learn more about San Antonio’s environment and nature friendly practices from organizations such as CPS, San Antonio Water Systems, Bexar Audubon Society and other local organizations.

Clay Thompson, the director of conservation and stewardship for Green Spaces Alliance highlighted another aspect of the conservation fair in addition to getting San Antonians interested in the environment.

Thompson said, “Nature Fest is a way for us to connect with the community, to show people or teach people about different aspects of nature. We also like having these collective events because we also get to talk across organizations. You know, the way that we met and started working with River Aid San Antonio was through one of these events. We are able to crosstalk and cross-pollinate about projects and things of that nature and get to know the people that will be able to do the work. So that's the secondary benefit of having these festivals, is that you can have within the very small conservation community that's here in San Antonio and in the surrounding areas, we can all find out who's doing what work and then where we can collaborate, which has been extremely important.”

The San Antonio River Authority had a model house in its booth Saturday. River Warrior volunteers explained how to reduce the impact from rain runoff using a model of a house. The display showed how to use proper downspout placement, rainwater catchment systems, and rain gardens to reduce the environmental impact of your house.

San Antonio River Authority's model house used to show best practices for rainwater management at the individual household level. Photo: Chris Belcher

The River Authority’s display highlighted the importance of small impacts on the environment. Green Spaces Alliance’s Carlin highlighted small impacts also.

Carlin said, “If someone is looking to find a way to get outside or to practice environmental stewardship. That's what we're all about as an organization. And they think, well, that's a really big task. You know, maybe I don't have a park near me, or I don't know the first thing about conservation. See, think about how you can start smaller than that. The program I focus on, urban land and water is all about community gardens as a way to not only preserve land and keep it green for a community, but to make that an even greater source of good for the community. So, is there somewhere nearby that you can plant veggies and herbs and maybe some pollinator plants to really bring out some more value in the environment around us and make it more beneficial for yourself and for your neighbors, for your family, for your community?”

“There are so many small ways to get outdoors and start celebrating the environment and I would I hope people are able to start thinking about ways to do that. And I don't know, maybe Nature Fest is the place that people get inspiration. Maybe it's through us or through River Aid or someone like that. But look for little ways to celebrate the environment every day,” she added.

One common link between all the organizations represented at Nature Fest is volunteers. Volunteers are critical to the mission of all the organizations and Clay Thompson had this to say about them.

“None of the work that we would be able to do could be done without volunteers. I know personally I have a 30-acre nature preserve that we have hikes at every Saturday or the first Saturday of the month. At that nature preserve. If I didn't have the 5 to 10 regular volunteers from the Alamo Area Master Naturalists, I would not be able to manage the trails alone, much less grow and do restoration projects like we do out at the property,” Thompson said. “When you take that and you expand it to the areas that everyone's volunteering at, you know, SARA, the San Antonio River Authority is paying people to clean trash off the river, but imagine how much more they would have to pay of our tax dollars if organizations like the River Warriors or River Aid San Antonio were not out there actively working to clean that storm water up.”

Green Spaces Alliance plans on continuing to hold Nature Fest every fall and Carlin expressed high hopes for its future.

“This is going to become an annual event. Our vision is for Nature Fest to become the preeminent outdoor conservation event in San Antonio in the fall. We want this to be the big event that people think of when they're thinking about, what can we do? You know, this October, this November. Well, Green Spaces Alliance. I know they have that nature fest event coming up. That's been really fun in years past. Let's go again this year. We want this to be big and welcoming to everyone. Families, individuals, people of all ages, all abilities, all backgrounds. Everyone has a place here. And that's really what we want to promote moving forward is that the outdoors are a place for everyone and everyone is welcome just as they are at Nature Fest,” Carlin said.

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