Were it Not for Water: The Driving Force Behind San Saba’s Appealing Parks

By  | 

We hate spam too, we'll never share your email address



Abundant water was required for survival back in the day, and the town of San Saba’s establishment was no exception to this rule. Springs just east of its square, together with the Colorado and San Saba Rivers, ensured that settlement there was a good choice, and it didn’t take long before it began to grow. Eventually, more creative minds came up with concepts on how to take advantage of this natural, wonderful resource that would benefit everyone, which turned out to be a blessing not only for everyday use but also for the advent of leisure time and eventual water pastimes. Fast-forward to present-day San Saba, and your appreciation for parks and recreation in the Texas Hill Country will take on a whole new meaning!

Were it Not for Water: The Driving Force Behind San Saba’s Appealing Parks

Photo: Facebook/Tammy Parsons Homerstad

The first development came in the form of a dam, which was proposed by E.E. Risien and erected in 1883. For 18 years, the dam (which created a five-foot waterfall) in conjunction with a water wheel and plunger pump supplied water to San Saba’s downtown, negating the power for the flour mill, a saw mill, and a cotton gin – progressive developments that would become a foundation for the town’s economy, and to this day, would be recognized as Mill Pond. Add to that the construction of access by rail in 1911 and road construction in the 1920s (both of which passed between the river and Mill Pond) and you have a recipe for growth. By the time more modern technologies worked their magic and brought water to farms and homes, water’s availability began to appeal in more recreational concepts, and in the 1930s, a pool on the river’s edge complete with a diving board and a swing were constructed on the Risien’s property by their son, Guy.

Were it Not for Water: The Driving Force Behind San Saba’s Appealing Parks

Photo: Facebook/Paul Grubbs

Over the years of development and wartime, a sentiment for the establishment of a beautiful recreation area at the Mill Pond gave way to more immediate needs, but never truly dissipated. By the late 1940s, work had begun on the development of Mill Pond Park, and by the early ‘50s, an initiative spearheaded by the Civic Improvement League and community leader Harry Shapiro worked towards the construction of a new swimming pool project as a feature. Citizens throughout the county donated their time and money to see the pool come to fruition, and on May 23, 1953, the pool was opened to the public. The formal dedication took place on June 24, complete with a large crowd, the high school band and the presentation of the official title to the pool to the Mayor. With that Mill Pond Park became a central gathering area for San Saba residents.

Were it Not for Water: The Driving Force Behind San Saba’s Appealing Parks

Photo: Pinterest/Vivian McCall

Two decades later, Guy Risien deeded his riverside property to the city of San Saba, forming Risien Park, and over the years, San Saba has made considerable upgrades to both parks. With 71 shady acres on the south side of Hwy. 190, Mill Pond Park includes the municipal pool, the lake and waterfall, a beautiful water wheel, camping and picnic areas, trails, sports fields, and the San Saba County Museum and San Saba Civic Center. Risien Park, on the banks of the San Saba River, features playgrounds, picnic areas and a pavilion, volleyball courts, as well as a rock amphitheater. On an adjacent property, the city has also constructed an 18-hole golf course and clubhouse, as well as an RV Park. Since then, the Lower Colorado River Authority purchased land on both sides of the highway, connecting the Mill Pond and Risien properties into the San Saba River Nature Park, providing access to the San Saba River in an attractive setting, appealing to locals and travelers alike. Vision is a wonderful thing to have, and water helped make this one happen.