In 2011, I had the opportunity to visit Seoul, South Korea and explore the Seoul Ditch, as I like to call it. It is better known as the Cheonggyechon Stream. The rehabilitation of the river was done in an excellent manner by providing a bit of rural space within a city for people to walk and explore.
In February 2012, I had the opportunity to return to San Antonio, Texas and revisit the River Walk (Paseo del Rio). The last time I was here, was a couple of decades ago with my then, 12-year-old daughter as I attended a conference. Two weeks before Christmas, we sat at a restaurant table adjacent to a stonewall that lined the river. Candles were burning in brown bags placed closely together on the top of the River Walk stone walls. A very picture perfect scene it was.
On the way from the airport to the hotel, the taxi driver was relating a story on the expansion of the River Walk, the supposed cost, the taxi service on the river, and other information that a tourist wants to hear.
From a modest beginning, the San Antonio River Walk is now about 8 kilometres in length with some additional branches connecting points of interest.
“The San Antonio River Walk is a public park, open 365 days a year. It is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story beneath approximately 8 km (5 miles) of downtown San Antonio. The River Walk is an important part of the city’s urban fabric and a tourist attraction in its own right. The River Walk winds and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks , lined with restaurants, shops, hotels and more. It connects the major tourist draws from the Alamo to Rivercenter Mall, Arneson River Theatre and La Villita, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the Pearl Brewery. Over 20 events take place on the River Walk every year.” (Source – http://www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/about/the-san-antonio-river-walk/)
River Walk’s Development Started in 1939
River Walk has a long history, with work started on it in 1939. In 1962, work
started to develop the River Walk, as we know it today with Texan or Mexican architecture, riverside businesses, and landscaping which encompasses 17,000 assorted trees, shrubs, vines, and ground cover.
The Walk is fashioned after the early architecture was finished primarily in stone. With a walk in each side of the river, one passes through treed landscape in calm and peacefulness. Herons sit in trees above the water. Historic and more modern buildings line the Walk with entrances from the river. Taxi stops are conveniently located to hop on a riverboat and continue the journey by water. The noise of downtown, is lost among the foliage and river.
The Walk is divided into the peaceful stretches and tourist commercial sections. Here one can later, sit by the river, enjoy a meal or a drink and listen to the sounds of a Mexican band. In the park-like sections, one can wander, sit and contemplate, look at flowers and trees, view wall art, read about the local history on wall plaques, and find oneself on the Walk maps that line the river. Cars pass unnoticed overhead as streets cross.
The River Walk is well connected into the downtown commercial area, including the plaza at City Hall and to the Market, sometimes by landscaped connections, sometimes by staircases with direction signage. Establishments extend to the Walk providing services, drink, and food. A set of stairs leads to a local art community. Other public venues are touched by the Walk.
Compared to Cheonggyechon Stream, the River Walk lacks sufficient public space along the riverside for programming and for people to gather for events, except for the city hall plaza which is half-block away. The walkways are meant for pedestrians, although one sees an occasional cyclist on the paths. The walkways do not have the capacity for people wishing to experience the river in a peaceful manner, without being crowded.
The river is a tranquil place. A bike path along it would increase the attraction and the use of the public bike system.
Becker, Jack. Seoul, South Korea- Parting Thoughts. The Ditch: Cheonggyechon Stream. In Third
Wave Cycling Blog. Nov. 7, 2011.