Two portions of a San Antonio park previously separated by a six-lane highway are now connected by a bridge meant to make life easier for both wildlife and human visitors.
The Robert L.B. Tobin Land Bridge opened to the public Friday, according to the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. The bridge, built over Wurzbach Parkway, connects two portions of the 330-acre Phil Hardberger Park. The park is home to animals such as ringtails, squirrels, coyotes, lizards, raccoons and deer.
Wildlife wandering into the road from the park has resulted in dangerous situations for both animals and humans.
“Even though you do put up barriers, they’ll get across or start to get across,” park namesake and former Mayor Phil Hardberger told KSAT. “Right now, it’s six lanes. [The Texas Department of Transportation] says it will eventually be eight lanes. We’ve had some accidents between cars and deer especially and some of the smaller animals as well.”
Construction workers have already spotted some animals using the bridge.
The parks department touted the new land bridge as the largest wildlife crossing in the U.S.; a spokesperson clarified to HuffPost that it meant the new connector is the largest finished land bridge in the country specifically designed for both animal and human use.
“The land bridge is 150 feet wide and approximately the same distance across,” the spokesperson told HuffPost. “It’s designed at that size to accommodate both people and animals, and we believe it is both the only and the largest built for this dual purpose.”
She added that similar land bridges are under construction in Houston and San Francisco but “as of now, we believe the one in San Antonio to be the largest.”
The bridge includes native trees and other plants that will continue to grow.
“I look forward to watching the landscape grow and mature with native trees and plants and observing wildlife through viewing blinds designed by local artists,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg told Texas Public Radio.
Wildlife crossings ― structures intended to help animals safely cross human-built obstacles such as highways ― originated in France in the 1950s, according to National Geographic. They now exist around the world and are becoming increasingly popular in the United States.
Last month, viral video showed animals in Utah ― including moose, bears, deer and porcupines ― using a wildlife bridge built over a busy six-lane interstate.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources shared the video in a celebratory Facebook post, adding, “It’s working!”