Welcome to the Leon Creek Greenbelt (LCG).

15 Jan

Please allow me to explain, ok I really ramble. The city of San Antonio is taking the major creeks and turning them into liner parks. These liner parks may only be few hundred feet wide and many miles long. It is land that is prone to regular flooding and cannot be developed, making it unwanted. It is land that the owners would gladly give up if for no other reason than to be able to stop paying taxes on land that nobody wants. It is in as natural a state as a creek or dry stream bed can be while running thru a major city. By turning this land over to the city parks department it can be put to use for recreation. The city builds a 10 foot wide pathway winding between the trees. In the low lying sections it is poured concrete much like a sidewalk only much thicker to resist flood damage. The upper sections are asphalt like a street. They add a few entrance points to adjacent neighborhoods and some with parking lots for those driving to these parks. It becomes a great place to go walk, jog, run or ride your bike. You don’t have to be worried that a car will run you over, because you are off the street. The scenery is much better. Each time we ride we always see abundant wildlife. A good example was Saturday we saw an eight point white tail deer buck with his three or four does.
Riding along the pathway is a pleasant way to spend a few hours and get some exercise. I ride the Leon Creek Greenbelt (LCG) a lot. It has a few drawbacks and advantages compared to road riding. It is a 10 foot wide pathway as I said. This is shared with all other users. You must be careful not to run people over. There are families with babies in strollers moving along at a slow walk two or three abreast. They often have little kids running around that have no idea that a bike could run them over. Another group to watch out for is the runners. They are mostly adults but with the iPods on they can’t hear you coming. The problem comes when they decide to “U turn” without looking over their shoulder. I have had a few close calls and one of my friends did hit a woman as she spun around into his path. As we approach we call out the side we are passing on. So if we are passing on your left we say “ON YOUR LEFT”. This lets the slower traffic know they are about to be passed on their left. Most uses have grown accustom to this simple courtesy. We often get a slight wave or other gesture indicating acknowledgement. We try to be courteous to other users with a quick “THANK YOU”. I have had a few cases where the pedestrian has not shown equal courtesy. Most will step a little to the side that you are not passing on to give a little more room. Some don’t, they act like they own the pathway walking three or four across completely ignoring other users. I have had cases where teenage boys want to be tough and won’t give an inch. The vast majority are happy to share the path. They recognize we are trying to show courtesy by giving them a heads up.
I had one little boy jump out in front of me daring me to hit him. He stood in the middle of the path with his arms and legs spread as wide as he could. I skidded to a stop running off the side of the pathway into the dirt. His father and mother (younger than my own son) were completely oblivious to the danger that their son was in. They acted like it was funny. Until I explained to them that a bike going 20 miles an hour would have seriously injured him. The way he was standing the head tube would have hit his chest. I would hate to think about the injuries. They changed their tune real quick when they realized the consequences. I didn’t hit him and I wouldn’t have. I would have taken any other route even into a tree before hitting a little kid that didn’t know any better. I raised a little boy and I was a little boy so I understand. The whole incident did scare me though.
Another risk is animals. My wife Rose had a big yellow lab cut right in front of her. The owner didn’t have him on a leash like he is required to. Rose tried to stop but it happened at the last second and too quickly. She skidded off most of her speed but still hit him broadside. It was very much like those incidents that have happened in the Tour de France over the last few years. Just like the pros she when down hard on the pavement. The dog was fine he only got tapped. Rose was not injured but she was sore for a few days.
The wild animals can also be of concern. We have had several close calls with deer running across the pathway. Did you see the You tube video of the antelope hitting the mountain biker in a race in Africa? Look it up, it is amazing. One of my riding buddies had a squirrel run out in front of him. We all have had this happen many times. This time the timing was not good. He hit the squirrel with the front tire or I should say that the squirrel hit the side of the front tire. I’m sorry to report that he didn’t survive. That is the squirrel, not the rider. I know he felt bad about it that is why the rider is not named.
Another animal risk is not so much animal as bugs. We all deal with the occasional bug strike. Along the creek bed the bugs are more thickly populated. In the spring you get hit all the time. It is important to wear glasses or you will get one in the eye. It can be funny when the guys are talking about how many courses the dinner is. In other words how many bugs they have swallowed on the ride.
The LCG is currently about the length of a half marathon (13+miles). A complete round trip would make a good marathon training run. For us it makes a nice weekday ride. A good rider can do it in about two hours of riding. It always takes me much longer. I tend to stop too much. The course is too twisty and to populated with other users to average much more than fifteen miles an hour.
Along with the paved pathway is a network of single track trails that run along both sides of the creek bed. In some places where the creek bed is wider there may be four or five trails running parallel up and down the valley. Tracks crisscross each other and give good opportunity to swap up the ride. These trails predate the area being made a park. I have been riding them since 1997 or 1998. I have talked to people who rode dirt bike motorcycles down these trails over twenty years ago. That was before the city was out this far. It was unincorporated county back then. No one cared about it much back then. As the adjacent neighborhoods were being built some portions of the creek bed became dirt dumps for the contractors. Other areas were scraped clean down to bedrock to open the channel up to make water flow better for drainage during flooding. Some parts were dug up for gravel. So the area has had a varied past it has become a nice place once again. Yes you can still see the scars left by its past, but it has found a new life again. Since the areas past did take a toll on nature, it is nice to see how nature has rebounded so well. The city had most of the big trash and junk, including old tires, removed when they made the park. Most of the people using the park are doing a good job keeping it clean.
We as bike riders always pack out what we pack in. We try to never leave any trash behind. The groups of riders I go with are carful to not damage the trail surface. We avoid skidding when we can. We keep off the trails in the rain or when they are still soft and muddy. If you ride a trail in the rain or when it is soft or muddy you break the hard pack surface and that encourages erosion. Because of our dry climate we don’t have a lot of vegetation growth or a large leaf crop each year. Vegetation and leaf crop help stabilize and to help rebuild the top soil. Our soil is very thin at best, thus so many exposed rocks.
The trail system extends into some adjacent parks like O.P. Schnable park. It is a 202-acre city park. Most of it is in a natural state. It has some good trails. The perimeter trail is a nice single track that loops along the back of the one neighborhood, across the front next to Bandera road, swings up to the Cell tower (The high point) then down to the creek again. Most of it is slow and tight and so a bit of a challenge.
The 10 or 15 miles of trails in each direction along LCG gives us lots of riding without having to repeat the same trail. Everyone should have a base trail system nearby. I hope more cities pick up on these liner parks. It is just as important to realize that these lands won’t ever be truly pristine again, but they can be useful and enjoyable and still be viable wildlife habitat. Nature is willing to live with us in our cities if we can give some room.
You enjoy riding so get up and go ride your bike. Enjoy a little bit a nature.

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