Escaping (and Embracing) the Riverwalk State of Mind
By Katie Hoovler, SA2020 LEE Fellow
Two years and a couple months ago, when I told people in Ohio that I was moving to San Antonio they usually responded one of two ways: 1) “Isn’t that where the Alamo is?” or, 2) “The Riverwalk is beautiful.” Like many visitors I naïvely thought the small river that runs through downtown was the most San Antonio had to offer. During my first few months here, however, I began to realize I was stuck in what I call a “Riverwalk State of Mind.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Riverwalk. Descending the steps from the street is like walking into Narnia, Hogwarts, The Shire or any other fantastical place that shows off how nerdy I am. I assumed there was more to San Antonio than this mystical walk filled with mariachis, margaritas and tourists, so I pulled a Frodo and left the Shire Riverwalk. And since I’ve made the climb up to street level, I’ve noticed how much more there is to the city than its most famous mission and water taxis.
Since moving here and getting to know the community, I’ve found that the traditions of this city are complimented by advancements that are moving San Antonio towards its SA2020 goals. So many other cities already have a road map with specific paths that must be followed in order to participate in community-improvement efforts. Here in San Antonio, we’re able to borrow these maps while simultaneously being cartographers ourselves (so much public input!). With SA2020, we’re doing something that no other city has ever tried on a scope this large. We get to create, collaborate and build San Antonio as we want it, not as others have already made it. Some people built their cities on rock and roll, but San Antonians are building their city on investment, creativity and collaboration. The deeper I get involved here, the prouder I am to be part of this innovative movement.
I moved here as a Teach for America corps member thinking I’d finish my two-year commitment and then leave San Antonio behind me. I find myself heading into my third year as a teacher and a resident the most excited I’ve been. I still consider myself a novice when it comes to knowing about San Antonio, but that is one of the many things that makes living here great. It is a city that is constantly providing citizens with pieces of its past while generating excitement about new opportunities in order to share ownership of the city and the vision. San Antonio still has an amazing attraction in the commercial part of the Riverwalk (often imitated, never duplicated), but like the expansion and redevelopment to the north and south, I’m always finding new places to explore and ways to get there. And the more I get to know this city, the prouder I am to say I Am SA2020!