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.