Bye Bye 2009, Welcome 2010

SMGA has had quite a year. We've watched ponds dry up and trees die from the heat and drought, and now some of our trails are washing away. But we plant trees, repair trails and plan new ones, and continue our dedication to San Marcos natural areas.

SMGA is also working on many new projects. We're rolling out a new volunteer program to better involve the community in our ongoing outreach, conservation, and stewardship activities. Our stewardship committee is working on a cooperative land management guide to help protect and maintain local natural areas. Contact us if you'd like to know more about the land management guide. We're still keeping our eye on the San Marcos Parks Master Plan and continue to represent SMGA on a variety of local committees, boards, and organizations. SMGA's board members and outreach committee hosted the first SMGA silent auction, expanded  the Naturescapes photography contest, created Naturescapes greeting cards, and moved our newsletter to a blog format to keep you in The Loop. And our conservation committee kept tabs on potential land deals that are keeping everyone concerned with land conservation and water quality in San Marcos very busy. These are just a few of the activities that we've been up to and plan to continue in 2010.

Want to help? Forward this email to a friend. Invite a neighbor, friend, or co-worker on a guided hike. Become a member of SMGA. Attend a city council, planning and zoning, or parks and recreation board meeting to keep an ear and eye on your elected officials. (Dates and times are in our calendar.) Join an SMGA committee - conservation, stewardship, or outreach. It's a great way to learn how SMGA works and get involved at a commitment level you are comfortable with. Join us for trail work (when the weather cooperates). And be sure to check The Loop often for up-to-date news and notices of local meetings and activities. Simply email for more information on any of these opportunities.

Also mark your calendar and plan to attend our annual meeting on Sunday March 21 at the Price Center. It's the best way to hear about SMGA activities past, present, and future, and to share your stories, concerns, and feedback. Hope to see you there.

Happy New Year! - Maggie Hutchins

SMRF: New Year's Day Plunge

Next Friday on New Year's Day, don't miss the annual Plunge.  Come EARLY to park nearby and walk over to Sewell Park, so we can all count down and plunge in together at NOON.  The river is running rather well, so we'll need some good strong swimmers to post themselves down near the bend in the river to help catch anybody floating by who misses the exit stairs.  We could also use some folks to stand in front of the wild rice clumps, after they jump in, to guard them from anyone who might stray into those strands.  We want to be sure to protect the rice from anyone who might accidentally walk on them.  Most people jump into the current and float down so they miss the rice, but we want to be sure it is protected, since so many people attend. We'll have hot chocolate and black eyed peas for good luck at this event as always, and I'll check with the usual hotdog grillers, to see if they are coming too. Bring plenty towels and warm clothes and hats so you can stand around a visit a while after you get out of the river.  The water is not cold, but the air can be, when you get out.  Kids need to be with parents, life jackets for kids are best. - From SMRF

Christmas Tree Recycling Slated

The San Marcos Parks & Recreation Department will accept Christmas trees for recycling beginning Monday, Dec. 28 through Jan. 13 at the Grant Harris Building, 401 E. Hopkins.

Residents are asked to remove all ornaments and lights and place the trees in the fenced enclosure next to the stage. Mulch from the trees is available free to the public. Residents must load the mulch on their own vehicles. The remaining mulch will be used on City parks.

San Marcos residents who want to dispose of Christmas trees at the curb through Texas Disposal Systems should call Public Services during business hours at 393.8026 to arrange for a bulky waste pick up.

Christmas Colors at Upper Purgatory Creek Trail 12/19/09

The warmer and drier weather is going to be hit or miss for the next few months. When it's as good as it was today be sure to get out and enjoy it.  When myself and friends arrived at the trail head of Upper Purgatory at the end of Franklin Street the sky was suggesting a change in weather.  A couple cars preceded us and, from the tracks, I'd suspect mountain bikers enjoying the challenge.

It wasn't just the trail, only slightly muddy after 1/2-inch of rainfall two days prior, but the distractions on the trail that kept it challenging.  The colors of Christmas were everywhere as we saw Spanish oaks bursting worth with vivid reds and yellows.  The moss growing around the bowl in the trunk of a live oak and the cactus hanging from the upper branches added a green not visible when the trees are leafed-out.  The recent rains and winds dislodged many of the small leaves from all but the ashe junipers and the recalcitrant Spanish oaks.

Chickadees, titmouses, cardinals and wrens were out in abundance.  At a particularly attractive possumhaw loaded with berries, a mockingbird stood guard over a winter stock of food.  One lone red admiral butterfly, was seen flying through the meadow near Hernandez Elementary school.

The trail is still closed to Prospect Park as construction continues on the Wonderworld Extension.  Eventually a one-way 4.7 mile trail over and below 75-foot bluffs will inspire and challenge hikers and mountain bikers. So, be sure to get out enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. Even in the drier (or wetter) winter weather, there are many jewels on the trails in San Marcos to enjoy in the natural areas.- Lance


What's He Photographing?

Dick McBride, a member of SMGA and the trail crew, focuses on a plant during a hike of Upper Purgatory December 19.  Can you tell what the plant is?  Hint: There aren't many flowering plants in December.

And the Answer Is ...

The common evening primrose.

Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance Online Auction

Dear GEAA members and friends,

To raise enough funds to get us through this year, we're hosting an online auction just in time for your Christmas shopping!

The auction will begin TODAY, Thursday, December 3rd, and ends on Sunday, December 13th. Thanks to our member groups and business members, we’ve got a great collection of items:

  • Two Southwest Airlines roundtrip tickets to any destination, good for one year
  • A weekend stay at the beautiful Villa Del Rio B&B
  • A ziplining adventure tour with Cypress Valley Canopy Tours near Austin
  • Golf for four at the gorgeous Tapatio Springs Resort & Country Club
  • River rafting trip for four through Rockin 'R' River Rides
  • One full hook-up RV site at Camp Huaco Springs
  • $50 gift certificates for locally roasted coffee (over 30 flavors to choose from!)
  • A 16-hour Wilderness First Aid Certification course
Simply go to our online eBay store, check out our auction items, and place your bid.

Please help make this auction a success by forwarding this email on to your friends, family, and business associates.

Help GEAA close 2009 with lots of black ink on the books!

Many thanks,

Annalisa Peace
Executive Director
Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance

350 and Upper Purgatory Workday - Thank You!

On 24 October, people around the world held a day of environmental action "to call for action on the climate crisis" as part of Here in San Marcos, the NAEP (National Association of Environmental Professionals) chapter at Texas State, SMGA, and others did their part by cleaning up the last bits of ranch junk in Upper Purgatory that Bobcat Build was unable to complete. Thanks to everyone that helped with this project!

Meeting Cancellation & Address Correction

November 17 San Marcos Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Meeting - CANCELLED

Grant Harris Building, 5:30 pm

November 17 Hays County Strategic Plan Public Input

The on-line survey has closed, but you can still voice your input on on the first Hays County Strategic Plan on November 17 at the San Marcos Police Dept. 6:30 p.m. Read an earlier article for more information.

The public is invited to discuss their concerns and ideas from 6:30 to 9 p.m.:
November 17 at the San Marcos Police Department, 630 E. Hopkins St., San Marcos CORRECTION: address for the PD is 2300 S IH35

Hays County Greenprint Is Here!

You've read alot about the Greenprint in our newsletters. The Hays County Greenprint is finally here! This interactive map (aka fun!) helps us identify and thus hopefully preserve our natural heritage, natural resources, conservation priorities, and much more. So get in and play around, recognize and appreciate all of the high priority areas in and around San Marcos, and help us at SMGA put this Greenprint into action.

Hays County Greenprint Brochure

Greenprint Interactive Map

Greenprint Report, Brochures, Map, Data

Your Values Could Add Value to Our Little Village

A call to the City Clerks office regarding the deadline for signing up for boards and commissions prompted one of the staff to say, "The mayor hasn't decided yet but right now the deadline is December 7th."

This leaves a reasonable amount of time to think about signing up for the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board or the Planning and Zoning Commission or perhaps the Convention and Visitors Bureau Advisory Board.  Each of these able bodies has an influence on the acquisition, use, and care of open spaces in our area. There are others with impact on conservation land and that may suit you better so consider going to the City Clerks web page for boards and commissions and check out their pamphlet.

Why should you step forward?  Because if you are reading this you have the values that our city desperately needs to be expressed in the conduct of governance. We need you. If not you, who? And a surprising discovery for most who step forward is that it feels good to contribute to our little village.

Most meetings involve a review of the agenda in advance, listening carefully to presentations and input from various interests, and deliberation with fellow members. It is not that difficult, and it is worth it.  If you decide to sign up please contact us, and we will help you with the process.

Trail Work at Ringtail Ridge

All that great rain following two years of drought meant a lot of work on all our trails. Ringtail Ridge benefited from the rain but suffered the loss of several hackberry trees at the entrance to the trail due to the drought.

Thursday morning regulars tackled several problem areas over the last couple weeks.  Weed-eating to open up the trails was necessitated by all the rain.  Johnson grass and horseherb especially benefited from the copious rainfalls.

Several hackberry trees were taken out by a crew of four as they chainsawed their removal.  The danger of falling limbs from these dead trees onto the trail determined their fate.  Plans are being made to
replace this scrub tree with something more appropriate to the landscape.  Restoration of the greenspaces is a continuing project of SMGA as reclamation from ranch land to aquifer-friendly and recreational use are key goals of the organization.

November 12th saw 11 members of the crew tackle several projects in a short time span.  While four crew members chainsawed the dead hackberry trees, two others worked at making fairways of the trails that were overgrown.

Another group of trail workers removed nailed boards in a legacy oak.  The damage done to the decades-old live oak remain to be seen at a time when the Hill Country suffers from oak wilt.  The disease is spread by nitidulid beetles which carry spores of the fungus from spore mats on infected trees to wounds on healthy trees, causing infection and death of the tree. ( http://

Still a fourth group of trail workers removed or trimmed ashe juniper and other invasive trees like chinaberry from the trail system.  Keeping ahead of a changing landscape brings satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment to the trail crew.  Not to mention, it's a great way to get out and enjoy the scenery.
Join us any Thursday, just send us an email for weekly trail work updates. . . . Lance

Looking for Something To Do? Check Out Our Calendar Items

November 14 Tree and Plant Sale at the San Marcos Nature Center

The Texas State Horticulture Club and the master gardeners and naturalists are holding a plant sale and tree sale at the Nature Center on Riverside across from Herbert's Taco Hut on Nov. 14, from 9 am - 3 pm. Call 393-8448 for more information.

November 14
Viewing of All The Pretty Horses

Join the Hill Country Conservancy and come on down to the scenic Storm Ranch on November 14th at 6:00 pm (viewing starts at 7:00 pm) to enjoy a special presentation of the film All The Pretty Horses! The Rolling Roadshow is a mobile version of the Alamo Drafthouse that will allow us to view the film in the open air at the ranch.

November 16 Proposals Due

Deadline for the county parks bond money proposals.

November 17 San Marcos Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Meeting

Grant Harris Building, 5:30 pm

November 17 Hays County Strategic Plan Public Input

The on-line survey has closed, but you can still voice your input on on the first Hays County Strategic Plan on November 17 at the San Marcos Police Dept. 6:30 p.m. Read an earlier article for more information.

November 18 Hays County Habitat Conservation Plan

Click here for more information.

November 18 SMGA Board Meeting

At the San Marcos Nature Center, 5:30-7:00. Members welcome!

Oh My Little Hummingbird, Let's Talk Gift Ideas

Looking for that gift for someone who has everything. We've got a couple ideas for you? How about an SMGA membership? Or a box of our lovely Naturescapes greeting cards. They are available on the front page of the SMGA website and have been very well received. Already in a second printing.

But some of you may need an item that is more directly connected to the living planet. Well here is our second suggestion: give them something that will put them eye to eye with Trochilidae.
Thanks for the idea Tom W.

It's Never Too Soon To Click a Pic

You can never get out into nature enough. Along with your bug spray and water, why not take your camera? Who knows, you may catch one of the 65 images displayed at the Naturescapes Contest and Exhibition.

The 2009 photo exhibit just came down and was by all opinions a great show.  Thanks again to all those who clicked a pic.

Support Conservation Education

Looking for an easy way to get involved? Our education/outreach committee meets once a month for about an hour and is looking for someone to take notes at our meetings, then type them up for distribution via email to committee members. Get to know SMGA and help the folks who maintain our website, send out these newsletters, and generally try to keep the San Marcos community aware of what's going on with local conservation and stewardship efforts.

Email Ann at to learn more about this opportunity.

HCP Meeting Nov 18: What is an HCP anyway?

This will be a helpful meeting to learn about Hays County Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP) and get an update of the process. Click here for a previous SMGA article to get some background information on the HCP.

Hays County will conduct a public hearing to discuss the County's application for a Endangered Species Act incidental take permit and possible adoption of the RHCP and related items.
TIME: 5:00-8:00 pm
DATE: Wednesday, November 18, 2009
LOCATION: San Marcos Activity Center (501 E. Hopkins Road, San Marcos)
View the published notice here.

The meeting will also give the public an opportunity to comment on the Final Draft RHCP (dated September 28, 2009) and a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS, dated October 14, 2009). These documents are available on the HCP Documents page and at the San Marcos Public Library. The deadline for written comments on the documents has been extended until February 1, 2010.

It's not Aquarena but Ringtail Ridge!

Ringtail Ridge (off Ranch Road 12)
Bloodpits Trail  October 24, 2009

A white-tailed buck and doe greeted me as I arrived at the trail head of Ringtail Ridge. Took the Bloodpits trail and immediately noticed the large number of American snout nose butterflies and dragonflies present. Does this mean there's water?

Also saw cloudless sulfurs and numerous hairstreaks. They're excited about a foxwood with white flowers. And some Monarch butterflies and bees attracted to the velvetleaf mallow plant with it's yellow flowers. Lantana are drawing their share of butterflies.

The bloodpits, or ponds, have standing water and are nourishing a yellow sunflower. The water is attracting dragonflies and blue damsels. I watched a dragonfly crush a damsel fly. Mosquitoes are also plentiful with the standing water. It's pretty amazing to see all this standing water after the summer drought. The scenery could almost be mistaken for a corner of Spring Lake with all the activity flying above it.

The downside of all this rain is the erosion that has occurred on the ADA trail (gravel 1/2 mile path). At a couple places the rain washed out the gravel and left the black liner showing. The trail crew has their work cut-out for them as the mountain bike trails are overgrown in a couple areas. Not a bad thing but requiring some maintenance.Wanna help?

A field, where we planted some wildflowers a year-and-a-half ago, is now overgrown with the Bermuda grass that we worked hard to remove. Can't buck nature.

A lot of people were out taking advantage of the weather and beautiful trails. A group of four hikers, a jogger and a mountain biker. If you plan on getting close to nature and taking some of the single-track trails (which are beautiful) don't forget the bug spray as the mosquitoes are hungry.

Now would be a good time to take advantage of the trails whether you're a hiker, jogger or biker. The weather won't get better and the views are simply amazing!


-- Lance Jones

Hays County Strategic Plan Survey

Below is information on the Hays County Strategic Plan. Please go to the website below and attend one of the public meetings to voice your support for parks and natural areas in Hays county.

Hays County residents now have more opportunities to shape the future of their county by offering opinions and insights during the development of the county's Strategic Policy Plan, either through completing an online survey or participating in a public meeting, or both.

Quality of life in Hays County, water quality and quantity, delivery of health care and transportation services, and the need for parks and recreation are some of the key issues that will demand a coordinated, well-thought-out plan as governmental agencies keep up with the rapid growth in Hays County. The plan will help myriad entities in the county work together to find solutions, avoid duplication of effort and provide a seamless delivery of services to residents.

The plan is being developed in conjunction with city leaders as well as with a variety of stakeholder groups, such as
school districts, senior citizens, health care providers, conservationists, developers and business owners and individual
citizens. Planners with Hays County, the Lower Colorado River Authority, Pedernales Electric Co-op and Bluebonnet Electric Co-op are assisting by organizing meetings and compiling results under the direction of a multi-faceted steering committee.

Residents can assist by filling out a survey available on the Hays County Web site at or
directly at

The public is invited to discuss their concerns and ideas from 6:30 to 9 p.m.:
November 10 at the Wimberley Community Center, 14068 RR 12, Wimberley
November 12 at Chapa Middle School, 3311 Dacy Lane, Kyle
November 17 at the San Marcos Police Department, 630 E. Hopkins St., San Marcos
November 19 at Dripping Springs City Hall, 511 Mercer St., Dripping Springs

You're Invited! Discover Texas State Oct. 31

Join Texas State Saturday, October 31 to learn more about the recent successes of Texas State students, faculty and staff during Discover Texas State, the university's premier open house. Enjoy a day on the beautiful campus as they roll out the red carpet for alumni and friends with tours, lectures, hands-on demonstrations, exhibits and other activities – something for everyone.

Discover what makes Texas State "The Rising Star of Texas" with an exclusive peek into world-class academic programs, cultural centers and ever-expanding initiatives that reflect our mission: being a student-centered institution dedicated to excellence in serving the educational needs of Texas and the world beyond.

Below is some information on a few sessions that may be of interest to members of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance. For more information, or to RSVP online visit All events are open to the public—no charge.

River Systems Institute

Texas State's institute is at the forefront of water research, preservation and interpretation of the remarkable aquatic system that surrounds us from director Andrew Sansom, one of Texas' leading conservationists.

Glass Bottom Boat Ride(s)
For more than 60 years, riding the glass-bottom boats at Aquarena Center has demonstrated the importance of water to more Texans than any other setting.

Freeman Ranch Tour
Visit Texas State's 4,200-acre working ranch that has served as a unique educational resource since 1985 as an operational platform for teaching, research, and outreach activities associated with the university and other learning partners of the region.

Best Time All Year To Get Out and Hike!

Upper Purgatory Creek (Dante's Trail) October 18, 2009

If you haven't gotten out and hiked a trail this week you're missing some of the best views (and weather) all year. It is so green it's almost overgrown in places. Starting at the trail head at the end of Franklin St. allows you a peek at the progress being made on the Wonderworld Extension. New fencing at the trail head signals future improvements to one of the most dramatic trails in San Marcos.

The 10-minute hike to Grandma's Oak is a bare indicator of the flora and insects thriving along the trail.  Birds are generally early morning or evening but now appear in greater numbers because of the water. There's actually standing water in this oak trunk from rain almost a week earlier and, if you walk the distance, more standing water (and mosquitoes) in Purgatory Creek below the bluffs.

There's an amazing overlook of approximately 80 feet followed by a meadow with all manner of late summer flowers with their attendant bees, butterflies and myriad other flying insects.  Following the trail along the creek provides a view of impressive limestone bluffs with Turk's cap growing along the feeder streams.  The trail opens up again at the dam next to Hernandez Intermediate School. You can hike or bike the trail past the dam, but you'll have to turnaround and re-trace your steps for a hike of approximately five miles.

Get out and enjoy!
-- Lance Jones

Naturescapes: Shy Sunflower #2

Shy Sunflower #2

Hays Co. Parks & Open Space Advisory Board : Funds Available, Shooting Range, Next Meeting

One of the primary ideas behind placing a bond vote before Hays County voters for more parks and open space in 2007 was the idea that we could begin purchasing prime habitat for endangered species. Through a program established by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Hays County, with the commitment of voters, could secure additional resources to create large unfragmented tracts of land suitable for habitat.

In order to create additional incentives the plan will allow developers who are displacing original habitat to "buy" habitat in the designated tract to offset the impact of the development. Below is the article about the call for parcels of land suitable for habitat, along with a couple other updates.

San Marcos Daily Record Hays County Seeks a Few Good Acres

To qualify for consideration, the property must contain at least 250 acres - and preferably 500 acres or more -- of endangered species habitat that will address the goals of the Hays County Regional Habitat Conservation Plan (, which focuses on habitat suitable for support of the Golden-cheeked Warbler and the Black-capped Vireo. Additional acreage for those priorities listed above will also be taken into account in the evaluation. For this solicitation, the county will consider any property that furthers the Regional Habitat Conservation Plan, but the ideal property would provide for multiple uses among those priorities enumerated above.
For further information, visit (click on Quick Links) Request for Proposals/Park Bond Funds. Proposals are due November 16.

Newstreamz Feds Resist Shooting Range on Habitat

The next scheduled meeting of the Hays Co. Parks and Open Space Advisory Board is November 4, 2009 at 7:00 pm at the San Marcos Activity Center.

SMGA is keeping a close eye and ear on the goings-on and as always, will keep everyone up-to-date.

Hays County Greenprint Update

SMGA participated in the Envision Central Texas Natural Infrastructure Committee in early October to hear about the Hays County Greenprint. Lots of finishing work has been going on, and the Hays County Greenprint is almost ready to be rolled out. We're very excited to help put this vision into action. Look for more in upcoming newsletters.

For more information, read our previous articles and visit the ECT website.

New and Rescheduled Hikes

Due to rain and mud, we've had to cancel or postpone quite a few hikes lately. We're in the process of scheduling new hikes. Thankfully we have two great opportunities this week and it looks like the weather will cooperate. Hope to see you on the trail soon.

Kids in Prospect Park - Rescheduled
Friday, October 16, 10:00-11:30 AM

Hike Blanco Shoals

Saturday, October 17, 8:30-11:00 am
Our goal as always will be to enjoy a morning autumn hike along the mighty Blanco River. But in addition we will be looking for ideas on how to better care for this dynamic space.

Workday Upper Purgatory
Saturday, October 24, 8:30-11:00 am
We will finish cleaning up the ranch junk left from the Bobcat Build event this past spring. There isn't too much left but it is one of those niggling details that spoils the otherwise wilderness experience near the overlook of Purgatory. The National Association of Environmental Professionals chapter on the Texas State campus will be joining in. They are an amazing group of motivated individuals who have a variety of professional career paths but who have a clear understanding of the value of our living planet.

For more events, click here or email

The Yard, Yosemite, and Our Connection with Creation

Swan Pond
Swan Pond by Carol Watson
2009 Naturescapes Award of Merit

Susan Smith's piece in the "Answers to Go" section of the San Marcos Daily Record about a quote in the May edition of "Oprah" magazine may have caught your attention.  The quote was from Susan Hanson's book "Icons of Loss and Grace: Moments from the Natural World" and the quote is included at the end of this article with a handful of others.  Susan teaches at Texas State and lives in San Marcos. SMGA has assisted with the honors class she teaches, Nature and the Quest for Meaning, by leading a hike through Purgatory Creek. And, her students later participated in the Bobcat Build clean up near the overlook.

Susan's essays are poetic and read like a combination diary and daily prayer book, like a travelogue through selected hill country sets and a naturalist's notebook.  She can connect you to our earth with a few words of contemplation from her busy backyard or from under water during a near drowning experience while paddling down the San Marcos River.  The readers in our area can savor every vignette, every mood or sensation evoked by our shared landscape. What a great find!

While reading Susan's book, you may recall some of the language in the Ken Burns "docu-story, "National Parks: America's Best Idea."  The series treats us to an engaging hike through the history of the National Parks. Television is a great medium for the telling this story as the imagery of those grand places, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Tetons, Grand Canyon, Great Smokey Mountains (and many others), helps us comprehend the grandeur of these places. The images of painters and early photographers, as was noted in our recent Naturescapes reception, are what helped convince the people in Washington and down home across America that these amazing places were worth keeping and protecting in perpetuity.

Burns' story is replete with the people who experienced the profound joy and wonder of America's unique landscape and the story of those who had to convince presidents, members of congress and cabinet members that conservation was a good idea.  Rockefeller helped a good bit as did many landowners, clubs and Americans of all descriptions from across the land, some of whom would never get to see our amazing places.

The contrast between Susan's personal, intimate scale with a landscape all of us see from our windows and the majesty of our great parks as portrayed in the Ken Burns series may seem disparate.  But there is a strong sentiment in each depiction that binds them in a common understanding: our living earth can give us all the succor we need, from simple sensory pleasure to wisdom for our age. And, we must take the time to live within it and keep it.

From the essay "Homecoming":
More and more, I realize, I turn to this natural world not just for beauty and solace, not just for pleasure and peace, but for the wisdom that I need to live.  It teaches me things in a language I can hear and understand.
In the piece titled "Simple Pleasures" she ends with:
In short, forget to pay attention to the world, and what you end up with is a machine, cutting a swath through what is beautiful, alive, and green.
From "Naming Day" in a place where she reflects on a winter day near the end of the year about her place, her time.
...I am here my weary mind tells me, to be surrounded by things I cannot understand, by creatures I can glimpse but not possess. I am here to watch the leaves decay, to listen to the river utter sounds thta have no meanding for my ears.  I am here to be gawked at by the birds, to be seen as the interloper that I am...
...Sitting under the cypress trees draped with Spanish moss, I will realize at last that it is ritual I've sought, some act to bring this old year, this old life to a close. And so, gathering twigs and leaves from atop the weathered rock, I will send them flying, one by one, into the current, naming them as they go. Deadlines, fears, anxieties of all kinds-taking the shape of cypress leaves, of bits of bark of grass, they will drift on the flowing water, will be weightlessly borne away.
Here to name what I am not, i will sit on this bank and watch as wave after wave spills over the polished rock. Here to forget, to remember that my life is more than any total of it parts, I will let the river wrap around me like the songs of birds. I will feel its sound wash over me like grace.
The Sound of Water
So, you tell yourself without alarm, this is what it's like to drown.
Stunned that everything could come to such a sudden end-no warning, no premonitions, no time to be afraid-you think of your daughter, of what she will do when she hears. And then it stops. Your reverie is broken by a gasp. Pushed to the surface, you take a breath, cough, and fling your body hard against the toppled tree. It is all you can do, but it is not enough.
Some notes from John Muir:
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.

Congratulations Dianne!

San Marcos River Foundation's Dianne Wassenich was appointed to the Basin and Bay Area Stakeholders Committee (BBASC) for the Guadalupe, San Antonio, Mission, and Aransas Rivers and Mission, Copano, Aransas and San Antonio Bays. Whew - what a name! She is one of three people representing the public interest.

Dianne was nominated by GBRA. Stakeholders will start meeting late in October. They will begin by appointing a science team to gather the information necessary to determine exactly what river flow to set as the goal in order for the water to reach the bays and serve the needs of wildlife and people who depend on the river. To lean more about this bay/basin process visit Texas Water Matters, a website run by the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club.

We can't think of anyone else better to serve. Congratulations Dianne!

Fall Harvest Plant Sale

Fall Harvest Plant Sale
at the San Marcos Nature Center
430 Riverside Dr.
Saturday, October 17, 9 am-4 pm

Check out the native plant sale, gardening tips, arts and crafts vendors, and activities for the kids. Don't forget that native plants are much more suited to our recent crazy weather.Free of charge (food and plants available for purchase).

For more information, contact the SM Nature Center at 512-393-8448.

Rescheduled - Kids in Prospect Park

Due to possible severe weather and muddy trail conditions, we've rescheduled this hike to Friday, October 16 from 10-11:30 am.

For more information click here or email Maggie at

Spring Lake Hike and Moonlit Social Hour Cancelled

It is not easy making this decision. Two cancellations in one weekend.

It looks like the weather will be cloudy but not rainy judging by weather satellite and radar. The weather service however still believes rain showers are likely through this evening. It seems we will not see much of a moonrise this evening.

But the main problem is that trail conditions are very sloppy and hikers damage tread and risk injury in such conditions. We will have someone posted at the parking lot at 5 pm to let people know the situation. I hope we can work out another hike date for Spring Lake and get it posted soon.

Grateful for Rain, Todd Derkacz

Trail Work cancelled for Saturday, Oct 3

We thought the weather might hold but sprinkles are beginning downtown, radar looks iffy and it just feels like it will pour any minute.
Check our calendar for the next opportunity and thanks for checking in

2009 Naturescapes Winning Photographs

Naturescapes: Success

The Fifth Annual Naturescapes event was better than ever. We had great photographs submitted this year, and you must really be busy if you haven't gone down to the Activity Center to check them out. Before the awards presentation, the Crystal Creek Boys enlivened the atmosphere with acoustic magic, while Linda and helpers Leah and Hayat cranked out mucho munchies. Top all that off with a silent auction and some awesome greeting cards featuring 10 of the photographs from last year, and it's the makings for a good time.

The presentation this year opened with some remarks by SMGA president Todd Derkacz noting how paintings and photographs have played a key role in the conservation of parks and natural areas since the idea first gained public attention early in our nation's history. The winners were then announced and the festivities continued. Some pics from Lance Jones will say more than words:

Awards of Excellence went to Larry Alford, Shannon Brotherton, Winifred Simon and Kenneth Jones.

Awards of Merit went to were given to Winifred Simon, Raena Wharton, Herb Smith, Carol Serur, Jane Guerin, Larry Alford.

Great crowd in attendance applauding our judge Greg Lasley (right photo) and two of our winners Carol Watson and Paul Keese who could not be present.

Thanks to all the volunteer members of SMGA, Hill Country Photography Club, The Arts Council and to the staffers at Parks and Recreation who make it possible.

2009 Naturescapes Winners

Best in Show
Herb Smith
Blue Winter Morning
Blanco River

Best in San Marcos Area
Paul Keese
Roses for Mother
Spring Lake Preserve

Awards of Excellence
Kenneth Jones,We Have Touchdown!, San Marcos - Aquarena Springs
Shannon Brotherton, Messing with My Head, San Marcos River
Larry Alford, Autumn Along the Blanco, Blanco River
Winifred Simon, Infrared Tree with Clouds, Red Hawk Road in Wimberley

Awards of Merit
Carol Serur, The New Bridge, San Marcos
Carol Watson, Zebra Caterpiller, Wimberley
Carol Watson, Swan Pond, Driftwood
Herb Smith, Cypress Creek Below Black Log Crossing, Cypress Creek in Wimberley
Jane Guerin, Green Heron, San Marcos
Jane Guerin, Knees Reflected in the Pedernales, Northwest Hays County
Kenneth Jones, Time to Strut, Wimberley
Raena Wharton, Should I Shave?, Northeast of Wimberley
Raena Wharton, Shy Sunflower #2, Northeast of Wimberley
Winifred Simon, Green & White, Red Hawk Road in Wimberley
Winifred Simon, Face to Face, Red Hawk Road in Wimberley
Winifred Simon, Mushroom, Red Hawk Road in Wimberley

View the slideshow of winners above.

Share the Beauty of Hays County

Have you purchased your holiday cards yet? Need cards to give as gifts or send to friends and family? Would you like to support a good, and local, cause? Why not purchase a set of SMGA Naturescapes cards. For only $14 (shipping & handling extra), you get 10 different Naturescapes photos with envelopes and in a box with a delicate bow. Support SMGA and share the beauty of Hays county with those you love. Email for information.

Silent Auction Success!

Thanks to participants in our silent auction, which raised over $1,000 for SMGA's ongoing projects!

Fortunately for those of you who were unable to attend, we have a few items left for sale click here. To bid, call 754-9321 or email

Also, thanks so much to the following for donating items to the SMGA silent auction.
Healing Hands Therapeutic Massage
Anna & Mark Boling
Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance
Carol Serur
Root Cellar Cafe & Gallery
Phoenix Rising Bakery
Campus Guide of San Marcos
Cypress Sun Jewelry
Garden Ville
Herb Smith
BookLab II
Whole Earth Provision Co.
TG Canoes & Kayaks
Andrew Sansom
Skot Phrea Art & Jewelry
Ann Jensen
Conley Carwash
Crystal Creek Boys
San Marcos Nature Center
Kurt Johnson
Jo on the Go
Elizabeth Robertson
Grins Restaurant
Stephen Derkacz
Sink Creek Day Spa
Camille Phillips
Vaughn Thayer

Save the Date: Spring Lake Hike & Hughson Hike

Spring Lake Hike and a Moonlit Social Hour 
Sunday, October 4, 5:00- 8:30 PM

This hike will take us up to the crown of the hill and a quick check of the pond to see how it came through the dry spell. Afterward we will enjoy some light refreshments at Aquarena Center.

We will meet at the Texas Rivers Center parking lot and walk in from there.  The TRC is the home of the River Systems Institute and is located in the old hotel of the Aquarena Springs resort now called the Aquarena Center.  The entrance is located where Aquarena Springs Drive meets the railroad tracks in San Marcos.
We will walk in and make our way to the pond via the crown to find out if there is any standing water.  For the first time in a long time that pond went dry and it has been the watering hole for wood ducks and mountain lions and just about any other bird, reptile or mammal that needs a drink now and then.

As always sturdy closed shoes are good idea.  We recommend long pants as well and bring your own water for the hike.  We will provide the bug spray and directions.

Afterward we’ll meet up just inside the Aquarena Center campus to await the ‘arisal’ of the full moon.  We will provide some ice, a few sodas, some corn chips, pretzels and some dips.  You are welcome to bring some other snacks as you wish and adult beverage.  This is just a relaxing social hour to cap off a hike and chit chat with other members and visitors.  We will clean up after ourselves as part of our agreement with the Aquarena Center.  As is our inclination, we will ‘leave no trace.’

Sunset is at 7:13 p.m. with twilight ending around 7:40.  The moon will rise at 7:17 p.m.  It looks like we may have some cloud cover with mild temperatures.  We will cancel if there is a chance of significant foul weather.  We will post that to the blog an hour and half before the event if that is likely.

Hike Hughson Property
Saturday, October 10, 8:00-10:00 AM

This tour is hosted by Jane Hughson and Terry Blackwell who live in a unique situation near the northern end of Spring Lake Preserve.

Jane Hughson has been a long time member of the League of Women Voters and is offering to host a hike for both LWV members and SMGA members.

Most long time residents know there are flood control dams above the San Marcos River but few people know where they are or realize that one is next to the city limits just beyond the edge of Spring Lake Preserve on Sink Creek.  The Hughson Hike scheduled for Saturday, October 10th will give SMGA members a chance to see the dam from a commanding view point above the portion of the Sink Creek watershed that directly feeds the headwaters of the San Marcos River.

But the Hughson property is more than that.  It has been managed by Jane’s husband Terry Blackwell under the provisions of the Texas wildlife management program.  SMGA is hoping that the City of San Marcos and other partners will bring this into conservation to expand Spring Lake Preserve and further ensure clean water for the River and the Aquifer. In addition their property could serve as a link in a greenbelt that would circumvent the city and provide excellent benefits to nature and residents.

The hike will go from hilltop prominence to bottomland areas.  It is a must to have sturdy, closed shoes and we strongly advise long sleeves and long pants.  SMGA will provide bug repellent, natural and un-natural varieties, should it be necessary.  It would also be a good idea to bring some binoculars, identification books, camera, walking stick or whatever tools support the interests you enjoy in our natural areas.

You can find the gate to their property at the intersection of North L.B.J. and Camaro Way
The temporary gate code for the morning of the hike is 9 3 2 1

For information on more hikes, click here.

Parks Master Plan Update

The City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Board recently received a presentation of a draft version of the City of San Marcos Parks Master Plan. David Beyer of Land Design, LLC presented portions of the plan over three meetings in June, July and August. The plan is not complete, but its main points and supportive data have been developed and give a rather clear idea of what our planners believe should be included in the final plan.

Some highlights:
Two general types of studies were conducted to determine the needs in San Marcos, standard based and demand based. The standard-based method uses established average standards for a city our size, based primarily on population, to determine how many elements or how much programming should be in place. Using this method here is a partial list of what the city would need:
  • Activity center
  • 4 baseball fields
  • 5 softball fields
  • 6 playgrounds
  • 1 more pool
  • 17 tennis courts
  • 10 miles of trail (though the National Recreation and Parks Association has no standard)

Of course what works on average doesn't always satisfy the people who live in a community. Topography varies, demographics differ and then there are the preferences of those who will be paying for and using the facilities and programs.

The other method is to communicate with the people of the community to determine what they want. The demand method in this case involved five public meetings in the summer of 2008, surveys taken at five city sponsored events like Movies in the Park or the summer concerts series, and approximately 1,000 surveys randomly mailed out. About 705 surveys were tabulated using this method; here are some results:
  • Top four requested activities: Hike/Bike Trails, Natural/Interpretive Areas, Restrooms, Camping
  • Respondents would rather spend money to improve/maintain existing parks rather than develop new parks
  • 52% favor passive park development over active parks (22%)
  • 62% would possibly pay for facilities through taxes or public/private partnerships
  • The top three program requested activities: Nature-based, Fitness, and Water-based
  • Provide multiple age-appropriate centers throughout city, rather than fewer large facilities
Top Five Requested Activities/Amenities
  1. Natural Areas
  2. Hike / Bike Trails
  3. River access
  4. Soccer
  5. Tennis Courts
Preliminary 2009 Prioritization [Note the word preliminary]

1) Trails (connections to existing trails and rivers/creeks)
2) Acquisition of parkland and development of facilities (Ranch Road 12 / Craddock Ave
3) Acquisition of parkland and development of facilities east of I-35
4) Athletic fields west of I-35 along McCarty Lane
5) Community park development west of I-35 and near downtown
6) Passive park development along San Marcos River
7) Passive park development along Blanco River
8) Development of multiple age-appropriate activity centers

I know many of you are interested in trails so here is the preliminary map (that means it is a draft and must survive the planning and zoning commission and the city council). This map may be tough to view on this blog but perhaps it is better than nothing.

And, here is the prioritization of needs for trail development.
  • San Marcos River Corridor
  • Blanco River Corridor
  • Post Road
  • Hopkins Road Corridor
  • Wonder World Drive / RR12 (West)
  • River Road / Staples Street (East)
  • Downtown Connectors
  • Greenspace Corridors (ie. Purgatory Creek)

Okay, so that is plenty of info to process and there is much more that was presented; this is only a small portion. Based on the results of the survey and the identified needs/recommendations, SMGA membership values were reflected in the draft plan.

There are a few concerns to bear in mind.
  1. This is not the final version. If you think there are elements that need to survive the next reviews or that are missing from this plan, send a message to your planning and zoning commission and the city council.
  2. Conservation of natural areas sometimes falls under the purpose of watershed, recharge or habitat protection. Trails sometimes fall under the heading of transportation infrastructure. So one should not think that the only reason for creating these facilities is recreation. Think big picture and combined resources.
  3. We need to think beyond the "zero sum" mind set. Those individuals who want more playgrounds and soccer fields do not help their interests as well as they might if they only argue for a specific type of facility. Combining resources, such as playgrounds and trails, in the same space is a great way to push for all types of recreation and park use. The master plan is about improving our community's livability and our quality of life in order to keep all of us healthy and happy. We would do better to support each others' interests. The city has spent significant amounts under the heading of economic development. Improving the spending under the heading recreation, cultural and ecological development is equally important.
  4. We should be sure to plan for the regional interconnection of greenways for the sake of trails, transportation, water quality and habitat interconnection.
We will continue to update you on the Parks Master Plan and let you know what you can do to show your support.

Campo Survey

People, Planning and Preparing for the Future: Your 25 Year Transportation Plan. Take the Survey

"People, Planning and Preparing for the Future" is the new regional transportation plan under development with your input. Get involved by taking the '3 Concepts' survey, visiting a traveling info booth, or requesting a CAMPO speaker for your group or organization. The '3 Concepts' survey will be open until October 15, 2009.

International Flash Flood Laboratory Workshop

Dr. Pamela S. Showalter
Director, James and Marilyn Lovell Center for Environmental
  Geography and Hazards Research
Co-Director, International Flash Flood Laboratory

The International Flash Flood Laboratory (IFFL) Inaugural Workshop will take place Monday, October 19, 2009 in the Reed Brantley Parr Room located on the top floor of the J.C. Kellam Building (
on the campus of Texas State University-San Marcos.

Sponsored by the James and Marilyn Lovell Center for Environmental Geography and Hazards Research (, the Workshop will determine what activities the Laboratory should initially undertake to effectively serve the mission of reducing flash flood casualties and associated damage.

Annually, the James and Marilyn Lovell Center hosts a Lovell Distinguished Lecture. This year, in honor of the IFFL's inception, the Distinguished Lecture is serving as the keynote address used to launch the Workshop's activities. The lecture will be delivered on the morning of October 19 by Dr. Eve Gruntfest, a widely published and internationally recognized expert in warning systems, flash floods, and the challenge of integrating the social and atmospheric sciences.

Registered participants from all walks of life are invited to help determine how the IFFL will evolve to achieve the common goal of reducing flash flood fatalities and property losses, not only in Texas' notorious "Flash Flood Alley" but around the world.

The IFFL Workshop is receiving additional support from the College of Liberal Arts, the Department of Geography, the Texas Center for Geographic Information Science, the River Systems Institute, Sutron Corporation (stream gauging, weather monitoring, and flood warning systems), High Sierra Electronics, Inc. (hydrological monitoring systems and meteorological instruments), Halff Associates, Inc. (flood modeling, storm water and floodplain management) and others. If your company or agency wishes to become a Workshop supporter, please contact Pam Showalter directly at:, or (512) 245-7980.

For more information, and to register for the Workshop, please visit:

County Parks Board - Shooting Complex Wants a Habitat

Generally the Park Projects are Going Well
The County Commissioners received a progress report on the projects funded by what is known as the 2007 parks and open space bond. The Hays County Parks and Open Space Board had requested a summary progress report be prepared to ensure that monies were being spent as promised and the intent for each project fulfilled. The news is good. Nearly every project is tracking along as planned. This does not mean that you will see something on the ground in each case. Some projects, like phase two of Five Mile Dam, require planning and the right weather conditions- along with some contractor coaxing. Meanwhile the sports complex of the North Hays Optimist Foundation is near completion with excellent work by volunteers and donors.
The commissioners were concerned about what appeared to be a delay in the Kyle Northeast Regional Park project, which will require the city to go to its voters to raise the matching portion. The economy and other factors may slow the process but everyone is still confident the project, which will eventually be more than $50 million, will be built. Hays county will have contributed around $2.5 million. If you would like a copy of the summary sheets for each project contact Jeff Hauff, the county grants administrator,

Call for Habitat, Water Quality and Water Access...and a Shooting Complex?

Meanwhile the call for proposals to disburse the remaining funds is about to go public. At a workshop in commissioners court on September 15th the court tweaked the evaluation criteria for the open space/conservation projects and decided to postpone finalizing the recreation projects criteria. Conservation lands will need to have 600+ acres of endangered species habitat and, as demanded by the citizens, serve to protect water quality. Water access has repeatedly floated to the top of any survey as a high priority for county residents, so points will be given for that as well.

A surprise to many who have been working on conservation land issues was the insistence by Commissioner Conley that points be given for property that could also accommodate a shooting sports complex. While most parks board members were aware of the interest in having a shooting sports complex, most were not thinking that the already difficult standard set for possible conservation properties would also have to include approximately 300 acres for a specific form of recreation.

Members of the audience noted that the master plan and surveys do not support such a complex nor did any of the directives to the board leading up to the creation of the draft criteria. It should be noted that the tennis community, mountain bikers, disc golfers and a few other recreational interests would likely feel slighted as they have been trying to get traction for much longer than the gun sports enthusiasts.

The court asked an ad hoc committee to prepare a call for projects cover letter that mentions the shooting complex as a possible use.

While there are a number of problems with proposing a shooting complex in conjunction with habitat, water quality and water access lands, there is nothing that necessarily makes them unable to coexist if a property is large enough and has the proper topographic conditions. Still it's difficult to imagine getting past all the added hurdles a shooting complex adds to the process. As Dianne Wassenich notes, approval of habitat by US Fish and Wildlife Service is tough enough, now we may have to contend with other groups including neighbors who could organize late in the process to brew controversy.

What are some of the long term effects of a shooting range on conservation land? Are legacy sellers (donors?) of their land more or less likely to step forward knowing their property could contain a shooting complex?

SMGA president Todd Derkacz happened to be the only Hays board member at the court so he was drafted to draft the letter of request for proposals as part of the ad hoc committee. The group will include Stephen Marlow from the shooters group, Jeff Hauf and a few others. Commissioner Conley in particular wants the shooting complex option mentioned explicitly as a possible use even though it is subordinate to habitat and water priorities.

The "shootplex" advocates have a piece of property identified but have yet to garner neighbor support.


Just a reminder, the snakes are still there. SMGA received a note from a member letting us know a rattler was on trail in Upper Purgatory and escaped the initial view of her husband. While in motion on a trail, it is a good practice to keep eyes scanning the tread ahead.

Another reminder: It's hunting season. While hunting is not allowed within city limits, many of the San Marcos natural areas border the city/county lines where hunting may be allowed. Prime hunting time is in the morning and evening hours, and the fall season brings about the very popular dove and deer hunting seasons. Be aware that you may hear shots nearby, but they may be from neighboring private lands within the county. However, if you ever see anyone hunting in a San Marcos natural area, please call 911. A friend of SMGA who works in the emergency room at Seton notes that there was a recent patient who received bird shot in his leg and has no idea where it came from.

For more information on hunting seasons in Texas, visit Texas Parks & Wildlife: Texas Hunting Seasons.

A Greenway for Southeast Travis - Will We Have a Trail System?

The Austin American Statesman featured an article about a greenway and trail planned for southeast Travis County. The idea is to create a greenway that would "connect the dots" of existing parks and public property and thereby "transform the southeast end of Travis County." The 21-mile greenway would run along Onion Creek and eventually offer a kayak launch, picnic and play fields, camping, and wildlife viewing areas.

Not mentioned in the article is the value this greenway will provided for interconnecting the habitat and improving the watershed. They did explain that a buy out of flood prone properties will be completed by the Corps of Engineers. This initiative was made possible with the approval of park and open space bonds by Travis County voters, but money from a variety of other entities will be deployed over the next few years to realize the dream.

This endeavor, along with Walk For a Day Trail extending from Zilker to Kyle, are elements that could become part of a network that achieves significant ecologic, recreation, economic, and transportation improvements to counterbalance the impacts of urbanization.

San Marcos has an ideal situation for creating a greenway system having secured some of the "dots" (parks) to be connected along our watershed features. If we can secure the greenways along the Blanco and San Marcos rivers and Sink and Purgatory creeks, we could see our dots connect to others across Central Texas. Such a system of greenways would be an extremely important part of the long term health of our community and give us another reason to be pleased and proud to call this place home.

Calendar Items Expanded

19 Sep Sat 8:00- 10:00 AM Hike Upper Purgatory
It should be fun to go out and see how the very dry summer impacted the landscape - hopefully we did not lose any large Spanish oaks. We'll be assessing the condition of trail as well to see what needs to be done for the busy fall trail season. Bring some identification guides with you if you are interested to know what certain species of vegetation or critters are are out right now. Even before the rain there were some blooms out there.

San Marcos River Cleanup starting at 10:00 also on Saturday, 19 Sep. Learn more at the City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation website

3 Oct Sat 8:30-11:00 AM Workday Spring Lake trail reroutes
SMGA under the auspicies of the Parks and Recreation Department has begun rerouting portions of the existing trail system to better cope with erosion and to hopefully improve the experience for users. To find out specifics about the workday and to learn how to become a trail crew member send at note to We will send out a notice just prior to the workday for those on the crew list; new crew will receive some safety information and details about participation.

4 Oct Sun 5:00- 8:30 PM Spring Lake hike and a moonlit social hour
This hike will take us up to the crown of the hill and a quick check of the pond to see how it came through the dry spell. The evening light will be especially good for photography and with the fall migration going on, who knows what might happen. Afterward we will enjoy some light refreshments at Aquarena Center. To learn more about the hike and social hour email us at

10 Oct Sat 08:00-10:00 AM Hike Hughson property

This tour is hosted by Jane Hughson and Terry Blackwell who live in a unique situation near the northern end of Spring Lake Preserve. They have a flood control dam on their property, one of three along Sink Creek, and the property is qualified as a wildlife management area. Members and guests of the League of Women Voters are also invited to attend.

17 Oct Sat 08:30-11:00 AM Hike Blanco Shoals
Our goal as always will be to enjoy a morning autumn hike along the mighty Blanco River. But in addition we will be looking for ideas on how to better care for this dynamic space. Visitor use and misuse are certainly issues in this natural area and the SMGA Stewardship Committee would be interested in the ideas.

24 Oct Sat 08:30-11:00 AM Workday Upper Purgatory
We will finish cleaning up the ranch junk pile left from the Bobcat Build event this past spring. There isn't too much left but it is one of those niggling details that spoils the otherwise wilderness experience near the overlook of Purgatory. The National Association of Environmental Professionals chapter on the Texas State campus will be joining in. They are an amazing group of motivated individuals who have a variety of professional career paths but who have a clear understanding of the value of our living planet.

Take Part In An Interview on Environmental Sustainability and Credit Card Debt

Ryan Littlejohn, a Sociology graduate student at Texas State, is working on a research study for his Master’s thesis. He is looking for people to answer questions on environmental sustainability and credit card debt. If you're interested, contact Ryan at or 512-245-4769.

Your participation in this project is completely voluntary. If you decide to participate, you would take part in a one-on-one in-depth interview that should take no more than 30 minutes to an hour of your time. Any information that can be identified with you will remain strictly confidential. Questions will generally cover values and patterns of consumption involving the credit card, sustainability, and social engagements.

Creation, Power and Light, and a Book

Some of you may have heard of the Interfaith Power and Light campaign through your religious affiliation. The campaign is being conducted by the passionate folks at The Regeneration Project, an organization dedicated to improving our relationship to Creation. It is heartening to know that people from all faiths are wakening to the need for a wiser and more just relationship with our living planet. Here is their mission:
The mission of The Regeneration Project is to deepen the connection between ecology and faith. Our Interfaith Power and Light campaign is mobilizing a religious response to global warming in congregations through the promotion of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and conservation.
A book published in February of this year was written by the creator of the Interfaith Power and Light and founder of the Regeneration Project Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham. It is titled Love God Heal Earth. E.O. Wilson had some thoughts about the book as noted on the Interfaith Power and Light Website:
"Love God, Heal Earth" is a historically important contribution. Its authors of diverse faiths recognize that protecting the planet and all of life is a transcendent responsibility - for both the scientists who study it and those of religious faith who are able to express its spiritual importance. --E.O. Wilson, Harvard biologist and naturalist, author of The Creation: an Appeal to Save Life on Earth

Drought Deciduous or Dead?

One of the most difficult dry weather consequences to witness in the San Marcos ecology is the browning and leaf loss of trees. Some trees seem to have all their leaves suddenly turn brown and then drop, others seem to yellow and fall as they would normally in October or November. Are the trees dead or just drought deciduous -will they come to life next spring?

"Well that depends," says Kelly Eby, the urban forester with the city of New Braunfels, "each species and each situation can vary quite a lot." The drought stress causes a fungi known as hypoxylon, which is ever present on almost every healthy tree, to begin killing some species and varieties more than ohters. Spanish oaks and hackberries are particulaly vulnerable. Trees taken over by hypoxylon will have leaves turn brown rather quickly and perhaps unevenly before they fall. (as seen in photo of a red oak) The bark is the place to look to determine what is happening. The hypoxylon will create a distinct mottled look on the bark and
even eat away the bark to the woody interior of the tree. Images are available from the Texas Forest Service website noted below.

Most of the trees are accustomed to surviving dry weather so a judicious amount of water applied under the drip line of the tree may fend off severe stress. But some trees are not well suited to their site to begin with and water is in short supply. It may be better to replace some trees with a species that is better adapted to the area, and to mulch and develop the soils around the tree to preserve moisture.

What to do? Like Eby says, it depends. But she is certain of one thing, if you have a tree you are concerned about get a free consultation from a certified arborist before you take any drastic measures.
Here is a link to the Texas Forest Service website to learn more about the disease:

Save the Date: September 4th

Naturescapes Awards Reception & SMGA Silent Auction

Friday, September 4
San Marcos Activity Center, 5:00-7:30 PM

Don't forget to join us at the 5th Annual Naturescapes reception and the SMGA Silent Auction. Enjoy refreshments, listen to the Crystal Creek Boys play, honor the award recipients, and then bid away at the 1st SMGA Silent Auction.

We have some great items up for auction, including a 1/2 page ad in the Campus Guide, a one-year supply of bread from Phoenix Bakery, jewelry from Cypress Sun Jewelry and Skot Phrea Art & Jewelry, Garden Ville Get Started Gardening Kit, and so much more. Bring your checkbook and/or cash and be ready to spend it for a great cause.

Be sure to visit our auction site at

CORRECTION: The name of the band was incorrect in the original post. The Crystal Creek Boys are playing at the Naturescapes Reception.

We Couldn't Do It Without You

It takes lots of time, energy, and money to make a contest come to life. SMGA, The Hill Country Photography Club and the Arts Council have managed to do it with help from many groups, individuals, and especially sponsors. The Naturescapes Photo Contest would not be possible without financial assistance from the sponsors.
  • Scott Gregson, Gregson Investments
  • Derkacz Family, especially Mike Derkacz (Note Mike Derkacz happens to be father of SMGA president Todd Derkacz.)

Also, thanks so much to the following for donating to the SMGA silent auction.

Healing Hands Therapeutic Massage
Anna & Mark Boling
Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance
Carol Serur
Root Cellar Cafe & Gallery
Phoenix Rising Bakery
Campus Guide of San Marcos
Cypress Sun Jewelry
Garden Ville
Herb Smith
BookLab II

Whole Earth Provision Co.
TG Canoes & Kayaks
Andrew Samson
Skot Phrea Art & Jewelry
Ann Jensen
Conley Carwash
Crystal Creek Boys
Kurt Johnson
Jo on the Go
San Marcos Nature Center

For a list of donated items visit

If you have something that you would like to donate, please contact us at

Do You Estivate?

Catchy headline?

But estivate? (Even spell check is choking on this one) It is a word worth knowing considering our current weather pattern. has this for its definitions:
Es-ti-vate: es-tuh-veyt - verb (used without object), --vat-ed, --vat-ing

1. to spend the summer, as at a specific place or in a certain activity.

2. Zoology, to spend a hot, dry season in an inactive, dormant state, as certain reptiles, snails, insects aand small mammals.
We may all be known to estivate now and then, especially during summers like this. We hope that you've enjoyed your time estivating and that cooler fall temperatures (with some rain) are just around the corner.

Federal Act Signed in March

Some members may not be aware of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act that the president signed into law in March. It is a comprehensive act that includes 160 bills in support of public lands, parks, sites, wilderness areas, national trails and other matters related to our natural and human heritage. This act, along with the extension of the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, the combined efforts of state, county and municipal governments, and the support of a host of non-profits at all levels will mean real progress can be made toward combining living natural areas with the places we live.

You play a key role in bringing some of those resources to San Marcos. When ever and where ever the opportunity arises, voice your support for keeping our watersheds clean and our habitats healthy, and for growing the opportunities for all ages to get out and get into nature.

SMGA will keep you informed of important times and places when voicing the vision will have the most impact on our local policy decisions.

Dry As Toast, Ready to Roast

A neighbor near the entrance to Prospect Park smelled smoke in the early morning hours of Thursday, last week. When you live next to a park that has plenty of juniper and when it has been feeling like Death Valley for the last few months, the smell of smoke starts the adrenaline. There was indeed a fire that apparently started along a wooded edge in the first meadow. The picture at right was taken from the ephemeral ponds. The light morning breeze, higher humidity, and withered grasses helped keep the flames from spreading too quickly; the fire department made quick work of it.
An SMGA investigation found a likely location for the origin that included an overflowing ash tray and some books on astronomy and mathematics along with what may be the remains of a lawn chair. A small one-person tent had been there a few weeks earlier and reported to the Parks Department. Lucky this time but maybe not the next - do be careful out there. Report potential problems to the Parks and Recreation Department as soon as you observe them, 393-8400. Emergencies should go straight to 911...t.o.d.

SMGA in the Activity Guide

SMGA is thrilled to have a full page spread in the 2009/2010 Fall/Winter SM Parks & Recreation Activity Guide. Pick up a copy at many places around town or see it online. Be sure to share it with your friends and neighbors.

While you're perusing this great guide, check out the other programs that your Parks & Recreation Department offers, including some excellent Nature Center programs.

Topsoil and Our River

A recent coffee shop conversation included some words about the river. "It's gotten clogged with silt ever since they put the flood control dams in. I remember when I couldn't stand up anywhere along most the parts of Sewell because it was 9 feet deep." You can say just about anything in coffee talk. But it got me thinking again about all the silt that has come down Sessom Creek as we constructed a village and a university. I drifted back farther still in time to the early 1800's when we began to scratch, plow, graze or bull doze as much as we could of the San Marcos River watershed. It reminded me of a chapter opening on erosion control from a book first published in 1975 titled The Earth Manual: How to Work On Wild Land Without Taming It by Malcolm Margolin:
... A visitor from outer space might have a good laugh at how we handle - or don't handle - erosion. Our homes have locks on the door, latches on the window, insurance policies in the dresser drawer, and we support a huge police and prison system - largely to protect a few cameras, watches and other gewgaws. Meanwhile, outside our windows, every rainstorm carries away thousands of tons of valuable topsoil upon which we depend for our very survival. Our scales of values are pathetically confused. With modern assembly-line methods, we could replace a stolen tape deck in minutes. Yet it takes nature almost a thousand years to rebuild one inch of topsoil.
I wonder how much of the already thin topsoil of our area has ended up downstream. Topsoil is key to supporting the vegetation, preferably grasses, that, with the soil, holds rain, prevents and even filters some runoff and allows it to soak in or find its way to open fissures leading to the aquifer.

I know, the question now is, will it ever rain again. Maybe one of these days we will truly understand the value of topsoil and manage the watershed with the respect of the valuable services it provides. Then, even if it doesn't rain, perhaps the water in the river will be a little deeper and a little clearer even in a drought...t.o.d.

Ups and Downs of Trails

Perhaps you saw an article in the Austin American Statesman recently that navigates through the sometimes contentious issue of renegade trails in natural areas. The article focuses on some mountain bikers who cut unauthorized trails using methods that harm the watershed and habitat. These activities are of most concern on the protected Balcones Canyonland Preserve (BCP). BCP was funded in part by Travis County voters, private conservation minded funders, and state and federal agencies for the specific purpose of providing endangered species habitat. Passive recreation was initially permitted in many areas as long as it was controlled to protect critical areas at critical times. Some visitors felt the trail opportunities weren't satisfactory, and took some saws into their own hands and routed renegade trails through some sensitive places.

The same sorts of activities are happening in the Barton Creek Greenbelt managed by the city of Austin. The greenbelt was preserved primarily for watershed protection. But lots of badly built trails can cause harm; from the Statesman article:
Without proper design, the paths erode, degrading water quality downstream. Loss of the overhead tree canopy creates swaths of sun-baked, compacted ground that draws such predators as rat snakes and fire ants. And when improperly done, cutting branches from oak trees can contribute to the spread of oak wilt.
Certainly recreation, and in particular hike and bike trails, will have to be a large component of the urban natural areas even as they serve other environmental purposes. But how do we manage misbehavior? Who will pay the costs? Who will create and build out the plans?

San Marcos has had a taste of these sames issues. Hikers and bikers may have noticed trails that seem lightly traveled leading off of Dante's Trail at Upper Purgatory. Visitors, unaware of the unauthorized status of such "renegade" trails, will use them to increase their experience with the area and inadvertantly hardening the trail. SMGA understands all sides of the issue and is working on a couple of fronts, including some recommendations for interim stewardship guidelines. We hope some of our recommendations will help us find our way through the formidable task of managing our natural areas so that critters, clean water and visitors can coexist sustainably. Feedback from our members is always encouraged...your thoughts? Email