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SAN ANTONIO (September 27, 2011) - An official ceremony to celebrate the re-watering of the San Juan Acequia took place earlier today near the Mission San Juan compound. State and local government officials including Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. Rep. Francisco Canseco, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Julián Castro joined community leaders and guests to commemorate the occasion and to address the importance of the acequia to the state and city of San Antonio.
The San Juan Acequia is a 6.7-mile long network of dams, ditches and sluice gates that was once part of seven acequia systems in San Antonio. This acequia was used to deliver water from the San Antonio River to irrigate crops at Mission San Juan.In 1982, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park called for a Spanish Colonial Demonstration Farm at Mission San Juan which had the best preserved area for cultivation. Flood control work on the San Antonio River straightened the channel and disconnected it from the acequia, preventing irrigation of the 300 acres of labores (farmland) at Mission San Juan.
Through the efforts of Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions, the National Park Service and the San Antonio Conservation Society in partnership with the City of San Antonio, Bexar County and the San Antonio River Authority, the San Juan Acequia received the funds necessary for repairs and is now ready to irrigate the land next to Mission San Juan.
"Today is a celebration of the culmination of many years of hard work and dedication spent to ensure the San Juan Acequia flowed again," said Sue Ann Garcia, Chairman or the Board of Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions. "We are grateful to all the entities that joined the effort and are excited about the development of the demonstration farm and community gardens."
The re-watering of the San Juan Acequia is the necessary component to develop a Spanish Colonial Demonstration Farm at Mission San Juan. The proposed demonstration farm will ultimately include approximately three acres of historic labores, which would be maintained to replicate croplands of the missions during the Spanish Colonial era and an additional 70acres that would be managed through historic leasing. Plans are underway to work with community organizations and local companies to lease the 70 acres for organic farming.
The demonstration farm is expected to help increase park visitation with estimates showing that by 2016, more than 247,000 visitors are projected to participate annually - including 22,000 school children - resulting in $24 million in economic activity and the addition of up to 265 jobs. The demonstration farm's impact to the city and state were praised by government officials during today's ceremony.
"This re-watering ceremony will bring water once more to the fields that sustained this Mission and its people centuries ago, a fitting metaphor for the prosperity this river and this park provide us centuries later," said Senator Hutchison.
In addition to the economic impact, the demonstration farm would help the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park's efforts toward becoming a designated World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a committee composed of 21 UN states parties that seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding universal value to humanity. This would be the first site in the state of Texas and the 22nd in the United States.
"Having the San Antonio Missions designated as a World Heritage site would be a great honor not only for our city, but for the state as a whole," said John Lujan, superintendent of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. "The designation would appeal to a worldwide audience who might not have been interested in visiting before, which would bring a new source of income to Texas."
Construction of the demonstration farm is scheduled to be complete in 2013 and would include new trails, parking area, fencing, barn, and other farm buildings.
About San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park was established in 1978 to preserve, restore, and interpret the Spanish colonial missions of San Antonio, which represent the largest concentration of cultural resources from the Spanish colonial period in the United States. For more information about the National Park Service and San Antonio Missions National Historical Park please visit our web site at www.nps.gov/saan.
About Los Compadres de San Antonio Missions
Los Compadres is the official Friends' group to the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Chartered in 1983, Los Compadres has raised more than $3.9 million for preservation, rehabilitation and development projects at the national historical park. Congress created the Park in 1978 and it preserves the largest concentration of Spanish colonial resources in America.
There is no admission for this park and it is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.