From the brackish marshes of coastal South Carolina to the prairies of Montana where the sky and the land can become mirror images, Robert‘s volunteerism reflects themes of ecological restoration. His desire to reestablish diverse landscapes is analogous to the paths he has traveled which continually circle back to his water-centric origins. Robert was raised on an ultra-rural barrier island off the coast of South Carolina, where engaging with the environment was an integral part of day-to-day life. He went on to live in Charleston, SC, Paris, and New York City – three cities driven by their relationship to their home waters. After 15 years on the island of Manhattan, he and his wife, Teresa, moved to San Antonio in 2008. For those not familiar with the region, South Central Texas does not seem to categorically fit into his lifetime places identified by their waters. But he has found the hill country to be a surprisingly liquid place where “underground rivers of drinking water emerge from the rock, telling ancient tales of our beautiful karst-driven aquifers”.
Much of Robert’s free time is spent engaged in activities with the element of machines in nature: sailing, biking, steel fabrication, hiking and hands-on environmental restoration like clearing cedar. He, his wife and their french bulldog, Bexar, devote time to experiencing the various amenities and natural areas found along our river and its watershed. The ability to modulate one’s experience of the river —being able to find a sunny spot on a chilly day or shady reprieve in a heat wave— is something that brings Robert great satisfaction.
The level of partner-building, good faith efforts and pure sweat equity required to transform the San Antonio River into such a world-class amenity could have only been fostered through a collaborative spirit at the Foundation’s heart, affirms Robert, “I am constantly humbled by what has come before me through this organization and their partners.” Confluence Park’s educational agenda, in partnership with the endowment from James and Estela Avery, especially ignites his passion. “We have empowered ourselves to tell the story of ecosystems and climate to today’s school children through SARA’s educational programming, in context.” he explains, “I was lucky to be exposed to the nature of nature at an early age and am concerned that we are not encouraging today’s kids to come into contact —and forge important relationships— with our natural resources.” Robert is not one to be discouraged though; he is visibly excited when discussing potential rate of return found in offering a sense of stewardship and engagement to a child’s larger world-view. “Helping people understand their contract with nature can literally be life-changing,” and to Robert, an enormous part of the reward is that our community is collectively moving toward that goal.
As an artist and an architect, Robert also admires the larger story of the public art along the river. “SARF’s mission serves as a departure point for exposure, experience, engagement and conversation. The Riverwalk is so beloved because the installations respect a viewer’s perception, their experiences within their own lives, and the greater human experience as they know it.” People have engaged the San Antonio River for tens of thousands of years. From the Clovis inhabitants of San Pedro Springs to the residents of tomorrow’s metropolis, humanity is intertwined with the story of the San Antonio River. Robert emphasizes that our community senses this specialness and wants to find their place in it. “The San Antonio River Foundation strives to keep that story alive through environmentally integrated life experiences. I love that our story doesn’t conclude at the end of the Mission Reach. Our ultimate focus is on the San Antonio River’s entire 240 mile watershed ‘from the headwaters to the gulf’. There is hope and promise found in the very nature of engaging the world, and shouldering such tasks, in units of measure so large.”