Travel is always enlightening. For me it’s about exploring the history and culture, but on my recent trip to San Antonio I found myself asking: What’s San Antonio doing right that Denver is not?
With its enchanting Riverwalk, San Antonio has created an outdoor resource for entertainment and exercise that promotes tourism and commerce. Like Denver, San Antonio is growing, but development — at least downtown — seems smarter. It’s tied into the extension of this natural resource that is the core of the city’s identity.
The river and its surroundings are kept clean. It’s lined with foot and bike paths. City streets are littered with motorized scooters, which are gleefully utilized by tourists, but are kept off the Riverwalk.
There are garbage receptacles everywhere, neatly divided into recyclables and non-recyclables, again, keeping the city relatively clean.
The homeless population was absent from the Riverwalk nor especially prominent downtown. This was curious as San Antonio’s climate is far milder than Denver’s, so logically it should attract a larger itinerant population. I haven’t investigated the city’s social services, but the difference from Denver was striking.
Public transportation was both less expensive and more extensive, and the city has several bus lines oriented toward serving tourist destinations.
Like Denver, San Antonio has redeveloped industrial sites — their Blue Star and Pearl Breweries reminded me of The Source in RiNo, but both, again, were tied into recently developed extensions of the Riverwalk.
San Antonio is America’s seventh largest city, compared to Denver at 15 — but it’s less dense, less congested, more relaxed and, seemingly, more environmentally friendly.
Could Denver’s waterways be utilized the way San Antonio’s are? Possibly, but it would require the type of visionary thinking that seems absent from Denver’s current leadership.
Shana Goldberg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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