A big gift

San Antonio's beloved Hemisfair receives landmark $1 million donation for new garden

San Antonio's Hemisfair receives landmark $1M donation for new garden

Peggy Mays Garden Hemisfair
Hemisfair's newest attraction will be the Peggy Mays Garden. Rendering courtesy of Hemisfair Conservancy

Hemisfair received one massive holiday gift this year: $1 million. It is the largest gift — and first-ever seven-figure donation — received by the Hemisfair Conservancy.

The $1 million, bestowed by the Mays Family Foundation, will be used to create a garden along East Nueva Street, which stretches between Yanaguana Garden and the future Civic Park. Named in honor of the Mays' matriarch, who passed away in November 2020, the Peggy Mays Garden "will reflect Peggy’s love for family, nature and her desire to leave the world a better place," says a release.

"My mother was devoted to adding beauty and improving life for all San Antonians,” Kathy Mays Johnson said. “Our family cannot think of a better way to honor her than with these exquisite gardens at Hemisfair that everyone can enjoy for generations.”

Though the exact design of the garden has yet to be finalized, Hemisfair Conservancy says it will include "heavily planted areas" with a mix of plant species to attract pollinators, as well as small trails, rest areas, and new lighting. Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2021.

When it opens, the Peggy Mays Garden will join the award-winning Yanaguana Garden located inside the downtown attraction. The 4.1-acre Yanaguana is a destination for both tourists and locals alike, and welcomed more than 100,000 visitors in just two months after its 2015 opening. With the pandemic's end in site and San Antonians ready to return to downtown, it's likely the Peggy Mays Garden will be similarly popular.

“It has been a privilege to work with Kathy and the Mays family to honor Peggy’s memory in this thoughtful and meaningful way,” said Anne Krause, executive director of the Hemisfair Conservancy, in a release. “The Mays Family Foundation is leading the way in helping us accomplish our aspirational vision of creating one of the world’s great public places here in San Antonio. Philanthropy is at the heart of Hemisfair, and we hope this transformational gift inspires other donors to support the redevelopment.”