The National Park Service (NPS) is taking steps to preserve and repair one of the most historic structures in the United States, the Espada Aqueduct in San Antonio, Texas.
The oldest Spanish aqueduct in the country, located in San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, is undergoing a $290,000 renovation project funded by the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA).
The project, expected to be completed by March, will repair leaks, remove sediment and debris, and preserve the heritage of the aqueduct, according to a press release by the NPS.
The Espada Aqueduct, which spans a creek bed, was originally built between 1740 and 1745 as a part of a larger system of independent irrigation ditches called “acequias.”
These ditches carried water from the San Antonio River to the sites of mission communities and their nearby farm fields. Today, the Espada Aqueduct is a National Historic Landmark and a World Heritage Site within San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
The renovation project is being performed by skilled craftsmen from the NPS Historic Preservation Training Center (HPTC) and San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, with support from Texas Conservation Corps youth.
The project team is using a diversion gate and an open sluice to drain the aqueduct and removing an estimated 30 cubic yards of mud and soil by hand. The interior of the masonry channel will then be assessed for repairs, and preservation treatments will be applied to the interior and exterior of the structure.
The GAOA funds several geographically based HPTC Maintenance Action Teams (MATs), trained in historic restoration and preservation work, to complete small but critical maintenance, rehabilitation, and repair projects on historic structures in national parks.
MATs enable the NPS to complete projects that require consistent high-quality work, particularly during a time when fewer people are practicing traditional trades.
The funding from GAOA and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is part of a larger effort to address the deferred maintenance and repair backlog in national parks.
The Legacy Restoration Fund provides the National Park Service with up to $1.3 billion per year for five years, allowing for significant enhancements in national parks and ensuring their preservation for current and future visitors.
The Espada Aqueduct is a significant piece of American history, and the NPS is committed to preserving it for future generations to enjoy. The renovation project will not only repair the aqueduct but also allow for a better understanding of the cultural identity of the past and future.