Wait For It, Wait For It ... 100 Members?

Waiting with bated breath to find out if SMGA has reached its 2010 goal of 100 members? Yes, yes we did! In fact we now have 102 members, including renewals and first time members. While around 750 people receive our monthly newsletter, we've never had triple-digit membership numbers. Now, should we add another zero and set our 2011 goal to 1-0-0-0 members?!

Purgatory Creek Update: Expansion & Nature Center

Thanks to all of you who wrote your county commissioners about adding 589 acres to the Purgatory Creek Natural Area (PCNA). On December 7th, the County Commissioners voted unanimously to spend $800,000 of funds on the Purgatory expansion from the remaining $30 million bond for "parks, natural areas, open space, and related projects, and the preservation of water quality, aquifer recharge areas, and wildlife habitat" passed by county voters in 2007.

While additional funding from a variety of entities is still needed to make the expansion a reality, this is great news for Hays County and San Marcos! Efforts to conserve habitat and access to natural areas shine ever brighter; the PCNA expansion will bring a 1,000-acre plus natural area that attracts visitors and future residents to San Marcos. (Read more here http://www.newstreamz.com/2010/12/08/county-funds-four-parks-projects-taps-2007-bond-funds/).

As we add conservation acreage, it is incumbent upon all of us to educate those who seek the benefits that spending time in nature brings to also respect our natural world. SMGA strives to reach out to visitors with this message through printed materials, our web site, information at park kiosks, and other venues. In another story by Sean Batura of San Marcos Local News, learn about plans for a nature center at the Purgatory Creek Natural Area that will go far in educating visitors about the importance of preserving the habitat of animals, birds, and insects as well as clean water through the protection of water catchment lands: http://www.newstreamz.com/2010/12/21/city-plans-3m-nature-center-at-purgatory-creek/.

For Your Calendar: SMGA Annual Meeting on 1/29 & More

 
SMGA Annual Meeting
Date: Saturday, January 29
Time: 3:00-5:00 PM
Place: Price Center, 222 W. San Antonio Street

We would be honored if you'd join us to meet our board members and hear what we've been up to. Look for an e-vite in your inbox soon. We'll discuss activities past, present, and in the works, elect board members, hand out awards, and enjoy drinks and appetizers.

Guest Speaker: Jarid Manos, Author of Ghetto Plainsman
Texas State’s Common Experience on Sustainability will feature a speech on the evening of Friday, February 11 by Jarid Manos, author of Ghetto Plainsman (http://www.ghettoplainsman.com/) and founder and director of the Great Plains Restoration Council (http://www.gprc.org/). Jarid’s advocacy of protecting our ecological health is very much in line with the mission of SMGA. Stay tuned for place and time for Jarid’s presentation. Jarid and Todd Derkacz will also lead an ecotherapy walk-and-talk/hike for social work students on the morning of 2/11. Email Christine Norton at cn19@txstate.edu for details.

San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF) Annual Meeting
Be sure to mark your calendar for SMRF’s February 19 annual meeting and silent auction. Dianne Wassenich and her crew of volunteers share an amazing and delicious multi-course meal along with a brief progress report on SMRF’s annual accomplishments, which are many. Our community and the San Marcos River have a great deal to thank Dianne and SMRF for when it comes to advocating for clean water and keeping us abreast of local and Central Texas development. Email wassenich@grandenet.com to get on SMRFs newsletter list and/or to learn more about the great items to be auctioned off at the event. (While we are on the subject of SMRF, Green Guy continues to allow anyone to drop off aluminum cans and tell the Green Guy staff that the donation is for San Marcos River Foundation. Green Guy tracks these donations and sends SMRF a check that supports work protecting the San Marcos River.)

Texas Invasives Class (read more here)
Saturday, February 26, Hays County Extension Office
  

Texas Invasives Workshop

Hays County Extension Office
Saturday, February 26, 9am-4pm
Hays County Extension Office, 1253 Civic Center Loop (San Marcos, TX)

Do you want to help slow down the spread of harmful invasive species and reduce their ecological and economic damage? The first step is to locate where invaders have arrived and get that information to those who can do something about it. That's where citizen scientists come in. Citizen scientists are volunteers who receive expert training to identify and track important invaders in our area. To become a citizen scientist attend a one-day workshop on February 26, 2011.

This training is being offered by the Lady Bird Wildflower Center and is co-sponsored by the Hays County Extension Office, San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance and Hays County Master Naturalists. Learn more about what the training is and what it covers here: http://www.texasinvasives.org/invaders/become.php. The site also includes lesson plans for teachers. Contact Lance Jones (lancej1s@gmail.com) with questions.

Notes:
  • Please bring GPS and camera if available. Lunch plans TBD (there may be a small fee $5-10 to cover lunch and refreshments.)
  • SMRF volunteers will be needed this winter and spring for alligator weed removal along the riverbank right below the River Pub deck. Contact wassenich@grandecom.net for more information.

San Marcos Parks and Open Space Master Plan

The San Marcos Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan was finally adopted by city council on December 7th. It took well over a year to piece the plan together. A last minute request by SMGA and others to table the adoption in November to allow time for review of the final draft stretched the time a little further. We supported adoption in the end, after a list of questions and tweaks were addressed. The document is not perfect from SMGA’s perspective; perhaps our bar is set rather high. But, as a document that is required to capture the public sentiment for how we should grow and manage our parks and natural areas in the coming years, it was worth the wait. It replaces a plan that was woefully inadequate.

Connectivity, trails, and protection of natural resources figured high on the list of needs. A few large active parks are called for to serve certain sections of the city and, notably, there are strong suggestions to fund adequate operation and maintenance of our facilities.

We have submitted a request to have the new version of the plan posted on the city’s website. We were informed it would be posted just after the start of the New Year.

Council Members Kim Porterfield and Chris Jones had questions about the plan not clearly stating in specific detail what projects and programs should be on the ground. The plan does not provide clear direction for the Capitol Improvements Program, which is the basis for large sum infrastructure spending through borrowing and property taxation. David Beyer of Land Design Partners and William Ford of the Parks and Recreation Department explained that the plan provides guidelines for choosing what and where projects and programs should be put into place as well as how to organize and manage the operation and maintenance of the parks and natural areas we have. Identifying specific projects and locations has yet to be addressed.

SMGA helps fill the deficit one might perceive in the master plan with a clear proposal that we generally refer to as the Loop & Check (http://www.smgreenbelt.org/About.htm). We advocate connecting existing natural areas and parks with a greenbelt trail system that supports healthy recreation and at the same time protects creeks, water recharge zones and floodplains. Protected corridors keep our natural areas biologically diverse and help keep our community healthy, providing clean air and water, educational opportunities, and beauty. A robust greenbelt system will make us the envy of neighboring communities, help sustain our economic vitality, and position us to connect to the regional trail system rapidly taking shape in northeastern Hays County with the Violet Crown Trail.

Learn more about the Violet Crown trail at http://www.hillcountryconservancy.org/land-projects/walk-for-a-day-trail/. Be sure to click on the inset map near the bottom of the page and then imagine that trail connecting to the Five Mile Dam park system and continuing down the Blanco to the San Marcos and up to Rio Vista and City Park…[sigh]…what a sweet dream that is. With your support through voice and vote and your support for SMGA, you will someday walk that trail.


By Todd Derkacz, SMGA Vice President

SMGA’s Year in Review

It's been quite a year for SMGA. We've tackled 12-foot tall thistle (well maybe not THAT tall) and worked with the city to incorporate the greenbelt concept map into the San Marcos Parks Master Plan. We have the highest number of paying SMGA members in our history and past president and long-time San Marcos natural area advocate Todd Derkacz received the Outstanding Service Award from the Geography Department at Texas State. We worked with the city to block damaging vehicle traffic on the sensitive riverbanks at Blanco Shoals and enjoyed the water in the ponds at Ringtail Ridge (and the dragonflies and turtles that came with it). We worked with Trust for Public Land to get Hays County funding for the Purgatory Creek Expansion while celebrating the opening of the Wonder World extension and the re-connection of the upper and lower Purgatory Creek Natural Area trails.

Whew! And, we have many more goals ahead of us, the most exciting of which is that we're finalizing a presentation to give to community organizations to bring awareness of SMGA and the greenbelt concept to a broader audience. It's been an exhilarating year for us and we look forward to seeing what 2011 has to bring (and what we can bring to 2011).


By Maggie Hutchins-Wagner, SMGA President

Thanks to Colin Castro

Colin’s work as SMGA’s and San Marcos River Foundation’s shared intern ended in December, and Colin is graduating! Thanks to Colin for untold hours spent making Ringtail Ridge Natural Area a more inviting place for visitors of the human kind. SMGA and SMRF deeply appreciate committed volunteers like Colin, who make such a difference for both our organizations and for the quality of life of the San Marcos community.

Adopt-A-Spot Members Recognized for Outstanding Efforts

Contact Heather Powdrill (hpowdrill@sanmarcostx.gov, 512.393.8400) to help beautify our community. There are currently 14 organizations that have adopted around 290 acres. This is the perfect thing for a neighborhood to participate in to help the community. Read more in this 12/22/10 city press release:
The City of San Marcos Parks Advisory Board recognized the outstanding community service displayed by the Keep San Marcos Beautiful Adopt-a-Spot groups and participants at its December 14 board meeting.

Since its start in September 2009, the Adopt-a-Spot program has attracted 21 groups that have adopted twenty public areas totaling 437 acres. These groups have provided more than 600 volunteers who have participated in 42 cleanups.

During their beautification efforts, the groups jointly collected 671 pounds of recyclable material and 1,273 pounds of solid waste. Their volunteers have also helped build trails through greenspaces, kept the Veterans Memorial pristine and conducted other small beautification projects throughout the parks.

“The Adopt-a-Spot volunteers not only participate in this program,” said Heather Powdrill, Keep San Marcos Beautiful Coordinator. “Many volunteers also help out at the San Marcos River cleanups, Bobcat Build and at the San Marcos Nature Center. San Marcos is fortunate to have so many environmentally conscious groups and businesses who dedicate much of their free time to help provide a better quality of life for the citizens and visitors of our community.”

The groups recognized were Chi Beta Delta (Children’s Park), Gamma Theta Upsilon (San Marcos Plaza Park), Texas State G-Force (Crooks Park), Central Texas Fly Fishers (Stokes Park), Sigma Lambda Beta (Veterans Memorial), Social Awareness Documentaries Film Club (Rio Vista Park), Bobcat Botany Club (Veramendi Plaza), San Marcos Baptist Academy (Memorial Park), The Hub (Purgatory Creek Greenspace), KAD of CM Allen Homes (Conway Park), Sign Arts Brigade (Ramon Lucio Park), AMISRAEL (Veterans Memorial), Planet K (City Hall Grounds), San Marcos Noon Lion’s Club (City Park), Omega Delta Phi (Ringtail Ridge), Alpha Lambda Delta (Alameda Park), Texas State AFROTC (Blanco Shoals), Silver Wings (Veterans Park), GreenTex Recycling (Dunbar Park), Phi Sigma Pi (Activity Center and Library Grounds), and Net Impact of Texas State (Grant Harris Jr. Building Grounds).

Adopt-a-Spot’s goal is to eliminate litter and to beautify the city. Organizations and businesses interested in adopting a spot, may contact Powdrill at 512.393.8420 or hpowdrill@sanmarcostx.gov. Visit www.sanmarcostx.gov for more information.

SMGA Videos!

Here are two short videos to help us start 2011 with San Marcos natural area conservation in mind!

This one appeared in the 11/30/10 University Star online edition. Thanks to Cecily Fish for helping us get the word out:



And this one was created by Nicholas Medina and Josh Diebel for Dr. Ray Niekamp’s communications course at Texas State University:

Parks Master Plan on 12/7 City Council Agenda

Late last week we noted this on next week's City Council agenda:
A resolution adopting a 10-year Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan will be considered by the City Council. Recommended by the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board, the plan is the result of six public meetings, a mail survey and special events surveys. The master plan meets Texas Parks & Wildlife guidelines and will make the City eligible for future grants. The plan covers 2010 through 2020.
We will be reviewing the plan to see whether our suggested revisions were addressed. We'll keep you posted!

Parks Bond Money and Purgatory Creek Expansion

As a follow up to our request that you email your county commissioners in support of spending a little less than $1 million of the remaining $3.4 million in county park bond funds, here's a summary of a very long discussion at the November 23rd Commissioners Court meeting. The Purgatory Creek Park expansion proposal was ranked second of 12 projects by POSAB (Parks and Open Space Advisory Board). The commissioners decided to approve the funds for the top ranked project, Harrison Ranch. The commissioners want to fund as many of the projects as possible, so they delayed the vote for the allocation of the remaining bond funds until further review of the top proposals. (Note more details in the Mercury article quoted below.)

There is still enough money to fund the Purgatory Creek Park expansion, and we expect it to be on the Commissioners Court agenda on December 7. We continue to have discussions with commissioners, city staff and officials, and the Trust for Public Land about this amazing opportunity and are very hopeful that the project will be funded. We will continue to keep you up-to-date as the project moves through local and federal funding processes.

As always, it's never too late to to call or email your county commissioner and let them know that you support the allocation of park bond funds for the expansion of Purgatory Creek Park, conserved land that provides many essential benefits. If you have not done so yet, please consider calling or email your commissioner now in support of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for San Marcos residents.

Note: You may have read recently about funding approved for Nicholson Ranch. The $5 million for that project was allocated from the parks bond before the balance of $3.4 million was reached and new proposals were solicited. Read more on that in the SM Local News story quoted below. Likewise, funds used to finalize the purchase of lands at Jacob's Well were not deducted from the current bond balance.

Hays funds Harrison Ranch as parks funds dwindle, SM Mercury, by KAY RICHTER and BRAD ROLLINS
The Hays County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 to appropriate $1.7 million in voter-approved parks bond money to the Harrison Ranch Park in Dripping Springs as the pool of available funds grows steadily smaller.

Supporters of the project, along with those advocating or opposing 11 others under consideration, packed the courtroom beyond capacity in a reflection of what is the most controversial of issues: the distribution of resources. After the Harrison Ranch Park allocation, $1.55 million of the $30 million bond package is unspoken for; pending requests total more than $10.7 million, including two applications from the city of Buda for the Bradfield Park Trail ($334,200) and a skate park ($150,000).
Commissioners approve Nicholson Ranch purchase for bird habitat, SM Local News, by SEAN BATURA
...Nicholson Ranch is a 3,300-acre tract located in commissioner Precincts 3 and 4 near the Blanco County line.

Commissioners approved the Nicholson Ranch tract purchase pursuant to the county’s regional habitat conservation plan (RHCP), though the RHCP has yet to be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The RHCP may be approved soon after Jan. 1, said Hays County District Attorney Civil Division Chief Mark Kennedy.

...Some opposed to the Nicholson Ranch tract purchase include proponents of projects competing for dwindling parks bonds, of which about $3.4 million remain, not counting the approximately $5 million allocated for the Nicholson Ranch tract in August.

Spring Lake Preserve Trail Under Construction

Spring Lake Preserve sits on a hill over the headwaters to the San Marcos River and the end of Sink Creek. The 250 acres were once explored by developers and slated to be the location of the San Marcos Convention Center – now towering over McCarty Lane. Rather than parking lots and conferences people will find ancient oaks hung with Spanish moss, a grove of mountain laurel and vistas overlooking the hill country. Residents can go there to breathe fresh air, hike or bike and be reminded that people have been walking these hills for 12,000 years.

Compass installation at Spring Lake Preserve
A trail in Spring Lake Preserve is presently under construction. Texas State University and the City of San Marcos coordinated the hire of a contractor to build the trails. The new trail starts on Texas State property by the golf maintenance shack on Laurel Ridge Road. Three yellow-striped gates have been placed, one at the trail entrance and two sectioning off a compost area, used to dispose of the vegetation harvested by underwater gardeners at Aquarena Springs. A packed limestone gravel path, wide enough for a car, has been laid. The old Aquarena boat barn is no longer there, only the slab remains. Once up in the trees, there is a kiosk roof structure built by a Boy Scout group. There are also cedar benches occasionally along the path. The tree branches have been clipped to clear the path.

The park is not yet open to the public. The trail will be completed for opening around the beginning of February.

- Mary Van Zant, SMGA Board Member

Can We Reach 100?

SMGA needs just 2 more memberships to hit a triple-digit membership total for the first time! Help us hit the big 1-0-0 before the new year. You can join for as little as $5 and 5 hours of volunteer work, or just $25 individual or $35 family.

Your membership in SMGA helps us continue our natural area monitoring and maintenance activities, promotion and evolution of a greenbelt vision for San Marcos, and outreach efforts to make visitors and residents aware of the need to conserve natural areas for the health of our environment, our spirits, and our economy.

Change and Challenge on Sessom Creek

We were asked recently about changes likely on a property that was once home of Rivendell Restaurant just up from the intersection of North LBJ and Chestnut Street. For some this is the entrance into what is sometimes called (erroneously it could be argued) the Sessom Greenspace. The City of San Marcos holds several disconnected parcels of properties that make up an undeveloped greenbelt that sweeps along the north side of Sessom Drive as it rises up to West campus.

There are many things to consider when trying to determine the overall value to the city if this change is realized. For many who love natural areas it would seem completely unwelcome. The property in question was purchased with the intent of creating a mixed use site in which residential, retail and parking would be somewhat vertically built to fit a relatively small foot print. The current proposal has over 100 student living units, retail on the first and second floors, and the required dedicated parkland.

On the positive side is the opportunity to have increased residential density and local services. Density close to the center of campus and the city center reduces commute times and enables bike and pedestrian activity. The nearby retail provides services that further reduce travel and provide some employment. And placing this density close to downtown means natural areas on the edge of the city may be spared from sprawl. While SMGA often supports many forms of development for these reasons, we also balance that support with concerns, and sometimes active opposition, about keeping the most valuable natural resources protected, healthy and able to offer the long list of benefits they give to residents and visitors. Sessom Creek is one of those natural resources.

Sessom Creek is the first creek to flow into the San Marcos River below Spring Lake, but is unrecognizeable as a creek below LBJ Drive due to paving, concrete and channelization. Any construction in any portion of the watershed must have effective and closely monitored runoff control measures during and after construction. The city and the university have recently improved their watershed management with better design, construction and monitoring; coordination and planning have significantly improved as well. The city, county and the university have recently entered into an agreement that will create an upper San Marcos watershed protection plan. Many of these recent improvements would not have happened without citizens paying close attention to activities and the direct involvement of the SM River Foundation (SMRF). The Chestnut Street property is something SMGA and SMRF will be watching closely.

You can participate by reporting unusual activities to the City of San Marcos and SMRF along the creek and staying informed about watershed activities. In the meantime we will continue to urge stakeholders to conserve the natural areas that protect Sessom Creek and all of the upper San Marcos watershed.

What's Up With the Black & Blue at Ringtail?

Hikers at Ringtail may see blue squares and black diamonds on trail signs - what's up with that?  These are the symbols that rate trail difficulty for mountain bikers as suggested by the International Mountain Bikers Association. Rating trails can be a tricky operation. It is something like trying to bring uniformity to the rating of how hot a bowl of chili is. Trails happen on all kinds of terrain with different expectations from users who may come from distant locations. Even bike equipment could change the difficulty for any given biker.

It is a good idea however to offer potential riders a sense of what they can expect on the trail so they can choose trails that match their skill level. A challenging ride can also be a successful and safer ride with the right information. Visit IMBA Trail Rating for more about their system, including this table:

Trail Difficulty rating

- Todd Derkacz, SMGA Board Member

Expert Guidance from Minnette Marr on Invasives Control

Minnette Marr discusses plant options for karst features
Members of the SMGA Stewardship Committee received expert guidance recently from Minnette Marr, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center botanist and San Marcos resident. Minnette addressed how to limit invasive plants in the 9-acre, Prospect Park portion of lower Purgatory Creek Natural Area and what should be planted to encourage diversity and groundwater conservation.
Minnette Marr, SMGA advisor
Ligustrum lucidum or glossy privet is a major concern and the subject of efforts to reduce its numbers. Work by the SMGA trail crew at the two karst features (limestone openings to the aquifer) in Prospect Park over the past couple of months have included replacing the cloth debris barrier with limestone rocks and thinning the ligustrum, which blocks sunlight from the ground. Minnette suggested false dayflower, cedar sedge, and Texas winter grass as alternatives to cover the barren soil. Milkweed, southwest bristle grass and other forbs, and coreopsis are also good options to consider. Along the walkways where ligustrum and the ever-abundant ashe juniper shades the trail, Marr suggested persimmon, rusty blackhaw, soapberry, spiny hackberry, anacua, and Lindheimer silk tassel as replacements.

Setting long range goals is an important first step towards replacing invasives and over abundant native plants. In addition to setting goals, transects, photo points, or other means will be used to measure success towards achieving those goals. Minnette emphasized that the landscape is always dynamic and a mosaic and that improvements to attract desired species, a diversity of grasses and forbs, and conservation of rainwater are all beneficial goals.

Stewardship Committee members were pleased to note that lower Purgatory was enjoyed by a number of local residents. During 2 hours on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, groups of dog walkers, runners, and even a trio of musicians enjoyed the natural area.

- Lance Jones, SMGA Stewardship Committee Member

Meet Park Ranger Larry Soza

If “park ranger” makes you think of that cranky cartoon character who chased Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo around Jellystone Park, and you think you’d have to visit a state or national park to see a real one—welcome to my world. That’s pretty much how uninformed I was until I got wised up a few weeks ago, thanks to a delightful conversation with Larry Soza, the newest park ranger right here in our own little ol’ city of San Marcos.

This past June, Larry joined the local force of about fifteen park rangers (fifteen—who knew?) as the one and only full-time member. Launched into his new job amidst the turbulent rush of summer river traffic, he quickly came to rely upon the knowledge and experience of his part-time colleagues, many of whom are San Marcos natives or long-time residents, and several of whom split their time among other such public-service careers as firefighters, paramedics, and sheriff’s deputies.

He’s still learning his way around town and all the various park spaces, but Larry brings to his new position more than 25 years of experience in law enforcement, first in Corpus Christi where he earned his commission as a police officer, followed by nine years as an officer in his nearby hometown of Robstown. After meeting his wife, he moved a little further west to join her in Alice, Texas, and spent eleven more years on the police force there. Meanwhile, the Sozas made many trips to Central Texas to visit their daughter as she attended UT and then married and settled in New Braunfels. They grew fond of this area and felt it offered better opportunities for themselves and their son, so when the chance for early retirement arose, Larry took it and they headed this direction. Nowadays, you might very well glimpse him tooling down Hunter Road on his Suzuki Intruder, soaking up the countryside between here and New Braunfels. “I like it here,” he says. “I love it!”

As vital to his park-ranger role as his street cred as a cop is Larry’s passion for the outdoors and the natural world. Being outside was a fundamental part of his life growing up. He clearly cherishes memories of helping his father work the family’s ranching property near Robstown, and he still owns land there that he visits regularly. This love of the land is a legacy he has always shared with others, particularly his son. He says the two of them often trek off to their hunting blind and find themselves more than content simply to sit, observe, and enjoy. Larry’s wife is also a happy camper—literally. Camping has always been a favorite activity for the couple, and his wife is very aware that Larry is never happier than when he’s outdoors. When he showed her the job listing for San Marcos park ranger, she told him, “That’s you.”

An old axiom about park rangers is that they protect the people from the park and the park from the people. Larry seems to have the skills and the perspective to handle either side of that equation, as well as its corollary of protecting the people from the people. When tourists and river visitors swarm San Marcos in the summer, who or what gets protected may be a tossup, although first aid, safety, and rescue missions no doubt take priority over resource preservation. But now that the seasons have changed and crowds subsided, Larry is eager to spend more time exploring San Marcos’s parks and greenspaces, seeing to the improvements and preparations that will facilitate protecting them just as well as the people who visit them.

If you chance to meet Park Ranger Larry Soza, you’ll probably be happy to find he’s a most congenial fellow—and wears an unforgettable smile that rightfully belongs in a Crest commercial. Just remember, don’t be hoisting any pick-a-nick baskets (or practicing archery in a greenspace, or carrying glass containers at the river, or littering at your next family barbecue). You don’t want him smiling at you all the way to jail—right, Boo-Boo?

- Jeanine Wilder, SMGA Outreach Committee Member

BookLetters: Science and Nature

You may want to go out for a hike or a bike ride, but with winter weather finally approaching it might be just as tempting to curl up with a book. But what book?

Consider registering for the San Marcos Public Library's BookLetters. Sign up at http://www.booksite.com/texis/scripts/bookletter/addnluser.html?sid=6478. I recommend the Science and Nature newsletter, which highlights options such as butterfly searches, vertical farming, memoirs of childhoods in nature, and crazy facts about the common cold.

So, if you can't or don't want to get outside, grab a book from the San Marcos Public Library and learn something new. Or, when the sun peeks through, take a book with you to enjoy on one of the benches in the natural areas or your own backyard.

- Maggie Wagner, SMGA President

UPDATE: Current Court Likely to Vote on Purgatory Expansion

The citizens' committee tasked with advising the Hays County commissioner's court on how to spend the $3,200,000 remaining parks bond funds has submitted their feedback to the court on 12 proposed projects. The competition is very intense and commissioners are hearing from proponents of other projects including advocates of a swimming pool in Wimberley and a shooting range east of San Marcos. We expect the current court to identify which projects will be funded.

SMGA supports a Trust for Public Land (TPL) proposal that requests only $950,000 to purchase 600 acres adjacent to Purgatory Creek Natural Area. (TPL expects to raise the approximately $8 million in additional funds for the project from U.S. Fish and Wildlife and other entities.)

Given the intense competition, we strongly encourage you to email your current slate of county commissioners. Tell them you want your parks bond money spent on the expansion of Purgatory Creek Natural Area. What a jewel this 1100 acre green space would be for our county! Of all the projects vying for park bond funds, we feel this one gets the county the most bang for the buck and best reflects the language of the bond bill passed by county voters in 2007.

Here's a related article from San Marcos Local News http://www.newstreamz.com/2010/11/11/park-wetlands-back-in-shooting-sports-request/

Ringtail Road Improvements

More kudos to PARD! You'll be glad to know that improvements to the dirt road leading to Ringtail Ridge from RR 12 should be complete by the end of next week. As you may know, the road was becoming somewhat hazardous due to washout from heavy rains and general wear and tear. We really appreciate the city coming through on these much-needed repairs.

Parks Plan Update

Earlier this month, we reported on the Parks, Recreation and Open Space master plan, which was scheduled for a vote by the city Council on November 1. We expressed concerns about the omission of critical portions of the greenbelt from maps in the plan, including connective corridors between waterways, and potential problems with the fee-in-lieu proposals added to an appendix. We also requested that certain goals be revised to emphasize preservation of natural areas that address habitat, recharge, the river, and flooding.

While a vote on the plan was delayed per the request of many of your e-mails, the Parks and Recreation Department staff agreed with most of our suggested revisions, including assurances that the fee-in-lieu process would not be changed in the near term. The council will reconsider the revised plan at a later meeting. We hope to get a copy of the revisions in advance and will keep you posted.

In general we are pleased with the plan and are very happy to see that it emphasizes trails and reflects SMGA’s Loop & Check greenbelt vision.

Meetings of Interest

Greenprint for Growth
There will be a meeting tonight, Monday, November 15, seeking updated input on Central Texas Greenprint for Growth from county stakeholders. The meeting will be from from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the San Marcos Activity Center. The greenprint is a tool developed through community input for balancing sustainable conservation goals with the infrastructure needs of our rapidly growing region. If you would like to attend a meeting, please RSVP to dmiller@envisioncentraltexas.org

Agave Class at the Nature Center
There will be a talk at the San Marcos Nature Center on Thursday, 11/18, 6:00 to 8:00 PM on agaves. Lots of varieties will be available to see and you can take home a sample. Workshop fee is $2

TCEQ Environmental Town Hall in Austin
From Texas Campaign for the Environment: If you've had problems with the TCEQ, here's your chance to speak out for change! TCEQ Sunset Town Hall Meeting, Wednesday, November 17, 7:00-8:30 PM, Bass Lecture Hall in Sid Richardson Hall, Room 2.104 at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, UT Austin. E-mail Stacy Guidry at stacy@texasenvironment.org with questions.

New Signs and Improvements at Ringtail Ridge

It's a secret no more, especially if you live at the Edge or Dakota Ranch apartments: there's another entrance to the Ringtail Ridge Natural Area on Old Ranch Road 12. It's true, you can only access the back 40 at this entrance by foot or bike, but new signage clearly marks the way for vehicles in between Community Baptist Church and Dakota Ranch apartments.
The SMGA trail crew has spent a good part of the summer controlling the invasive plants that thrived in the heavy rains and often obscured the single track treadway. Some of the trails have been named, all with historical significance, and new signage was installed courtesy of Colin Castro and Todd Derkacz. A new trail map is due out shortly from Kenny Skrobanek and the City of San Marcos.

If you've made a video of you or your friends attacking the berms via mountain bike, we'd love to see it. Also tell us if you found the improvements worthy and if something else needs to be done.

- Lance Jones

CALL TO ACTION: Parks Master Plan

On Monday 11/1 at 3:00 PM, the city council will consider a resolution to adopt a proposed Parks, Recreation and Open Space master plan, which was recently made available on the city's home page. Download a copy of the plan here http://www.sanmarcostx.gov/news/Docs/10oct28_parksplan.pdf (12MB). Thanks to Sherwood Bishop for requesting the addition of missing natural areas (listed below)! We are also pleased to see that the plan emphasizes trails and includes a greenbelt map that generally reflects SMGA’s Loop & Check vision supported by language we provided.

However we have the following concerns and strongly encourage you to email the city council at cityhall@sanmarcostx.gov ASAP (before their meeting at 3PM on Monday afternoon) to request that approval of the plan be delayed to provide time for further discussion and resolution of the issues, many of which are listed below. Surely this parks and open space master plan, in development for the past year, will drive many important decisions and deserves a close look. We do not see any need to rush the plan through.
  • The greenbelt map on p. 89 (PDF p. 95) of the plan does not depict a connection between the Purgatory Creek and Ringtail Ridge natural areas and the map does not show connective corridors between waterway greenbelts. (We have requested that these connections be added to the maps.)
  • The complete connection between the San Marcos River and Purgatory Creek Park (along Purgatory Creek itself with possible link to Willow Creek near the Victory Gardens neighborhood) is not shown. The missing segment is depicted in the San Marcos Transportation Plan (SM Trans Master Plan, section 6, PDF pp. 118-119) and is likely to be one of the most heavily used along the loop.
  • Appendix C: Parkland Dedication recommends changes to requirements that developers dedicate acreage in new subdivisions for park land. According to the plan, "these recommendations allow the city to acquire slightly more park land than the existing ordinance, but also add development fees for improvements." This language suggests that developers would be required to dedicate parkland and help fund the improvements. But the language later in that section suggests that the developer can choose (without the currently required approval process of the Parks & Recreation Board, the Planning & Zoning Commission, and the City Council), to trade some of the park land requirement for credit toward the improvements, which actually weakens the overall requirement and functions more like a "fee-in-lieu." (Fees-in-lieu typically allow developers to negotiate payments that replace or reduce parkland dedication requirements.) Fees-in-lieu should only be used in exchange for land in situations where the land is unsuitable because of its characteristics or location, as indicated in the current master plan. Fees-in-lieu should not serve as a means to offset improvement fees. If a developer wishes to deviate from park land requirements, the developer should receive a recommendations from the Parks Board and the Planning & Zoning Commission and approval by the City Council. We would also highly recommend adding requirements that restrict what "fee-in-lieu" funds can be spent on (e.g., fee-in-lieu funds must be used to purchase parkland in other areas of the city). Without this restriction, increased use of fees-in-lieu, rather than parkland dedication, would result in less park land. Furthermore, if fee-in-lieu funds are used for Parks Department operations or facilities, construction, and maintenance, the City Council could decide that these increased fee-in-lieu funds would allow them to decrease the parks & recreation budget.
  • On pp. 63-64 (PDF p. 20) we suggest revising the environmental and connectivity goals to emphasize preservation of natural areas that address habitat, recharge, the river, and flooding.
  • Under Standards on p. 77 (PDF p. 83), we would like to see more details and benefits added to the explanations of natural resource protection and trail connectivity.
  • The Action Plan on p. 98 (PDF p. 104) should indicate that wilderness trail construction is about $2,000/mile and that $200,000/mile applies to 6' hike and bike trails.
  • It would be nice to see the plan updated with information about Ringtail Ridge (no longer “undeveloped” thanks to SMGA volunteers and the city) and Blanco Shoals (a new master plan needs to be created since the original one is in conflict with the donor’s stipulations).
    Barring the issues noted above and others that may surface as discussions continue, SMGA is supportive of the parks and open space master plan and the community input that was considered in its development. Here are highlights from the plan:
    • The parks and open space system will consist of parks, natural areas, and linear greenways that foster community gatherings, provide opportunities for active and passive recreation for area residents, and preserve significant natural and cultural resources.
    • The planning horizon is ten years, and covers the period from 2010 to 2020. The park master plan covers the San Marcos city limits and includes the extra territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) of the city.
    • During plan development, these top five needs were identified:
    1. Trails (connections to existing trails and rivers/creeks)
    2. Acquisition of parkland and development of facilities in the area of Ranch Road 12 and Craddock Ave
    3. Acquisition of parkland and development of facilities East of I35
    4. Athletic fields west of I35 along McCarty Lane
    5. Community park development west of I35 and near downtown
    • Input from the public and other stakeholders was obtained through stakeholder interviews and questionnaires, park user intercept surveying, and community informational meetings.
    • The plan includes San Marcos River corridor management recommendations developed in cooperation by the City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department, Texas State University’s River Systems Institute and the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.
    • A list of parkland for future development includes:
    Blanco River Village, neighborhood, 20 acres
    Blanco Riverwalk greenbelt, greenbelt, 55 acres
    Cottonwodd Creek Park, greenbelt, 53 acres
    Crystal Creek greenbelt, greenbelt, 5 acres
    El Camino Real Neighborhood Park, neighborhood, 37 acres
    Mccarty Commons, greenbelt, 55 acres
    Paso Robles Parkland, greenbelt, 138 acres
    Purgatory Creek Pdd, greenbelt, 3 acres
    Retreat On Willow Springs, greenbelt, 37 acres
    • Through the community meetings and user surveys, the following five activities were consistently requested:
    1. Natural areas
    2. Hike / bike trails
    3. River access
    4. Soccer
    5. Tennis courts
    • “The overwhelming majority of those surveyed and those in attendance at public meetings felt that extensive consideration needed to go towards trail systems and balancing the protection of the San Marcos River with development…As one of the top priorities of the parks plan, the City should work to establish a program of growing a trail network rather than implementing it in bits and pieces. Coordination with other City departments and public agencies will be critical in providing a network that is useable throughout the ETJ.”
    • “Several greenbelts in San Marcos are under development, and investment in their advancement is a priority…In San Marcos, there are two types of greenbelts: those that follow waterways; and those that serve as connective corridors. Together they will create a network of greenbelts, which provides hike and bike opportunities to all parts of town and over long distances. Sometimes called a greenway, a greenbelt is characterized by having a high ratio between its edge and its acreage and therefore offers easy access for neighbors and visitors.”

    CALL TO ACTION: Support Expansion of Purgatory Creek Natural Area

    Join SMGA in support of the expansion of Purgatory Creek Natural Area by emailing your county commissioners to support using Hays County Parks Bond funds for this amazing 600-acre opportunity. The Trust for Public Land has put together a proposal that requests only $950,000 of the $3,200,000 remaining parks bond funds for this almost $9 million project (with much of the remaining money to come from an  application to U.S. Fish and Wildlife). Acquisition of this land will add 600 acres for recreation activities to San Marcos and Hays County, including hiking, biking, and camping in prime hill country property.

    Of all the projects vying for park bond funds, we feel this one gets the county the most bang for the buck and best reflects the bond for "parks, natural areas, open space, and related projects, and the preservation of water quality, aquifer recharge areas, and wildlife habitat" passed by county voters in 2007.

    If you have any questions, please contact us at alliance@smgreenbelt.org. Please email your commissioners today! Tell them you want your parks bond money spent on the expansion of Purgatory Creek Natural Area.

    Here is our letter of support for the Purgatory expansion:
    The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance (SMGA) is proud to support the acquisition of over 600 acres of habitat and recharge area adjacent to the Purgatory Creek Natural Area. This project’s goals complement and expand our organization’s mission which is to create and conserve an interconnected system of parks and natural areas for our community and future generations. The preservation of this area, which would more than double the existing Purgatory Creek Natural Area would expand the habitat for endangered species, protect area in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, and expand the passive recreation activities including hiking, camping, and picnicking. In addition, its connectivity to a larger hike and bike system make this a project that we are proud to support.

    The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance has partnered with the City of San Marcos on the development of trails in almost 1,000 existing acres of natural areas. Our trail building techniques keep habitat and water recharge protection in mind at all times. SMGA will design and develop the trail in accordance to any habitat and archaeological restrictions, while keeping in mind the experience of the trail user. This project presents a real opportunity for SMGA to further garner appreciation of the natural world and show off the beauty and natural heritage of the area to all of the citizens of Hays County. The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance offers its support for the acquisition of the 600 acres adjacent to the Purgatory Creek Natural Area and partnership for the trail development with the City of San Marcos.

    Family Picnic, Sunday 11/7 @ Prospect Park

    Join us Sunday, November 7 at 2 pm at the Learning Tree in Prospect Park / lower Purgatory. We'll provide trash bags, sunscreen, water, a few snacks, and bubbles. You bring your family and a snack picnic and enjoy a (hopefully!) beautiful, afternoon in the park. The learning tree photo shown here was taken by Lance Jones, May 2010.

    Enter from the Prospect entrance and walk to the end of the crushed granite trail to the Learning Tree. Or  enter from the Wonder World trailhead and follow the trail under Wonder World Drive and into lower Purgatory / Prospect Park to the large oak tree (aka Learning Tree).  Download a map for printing: the Learning Tree is at the western end of the orange trail shown on the map.

    Directions to Lower Purgatory / Prospect Park: From downtown San Marcos, take W Hopkins St. to N Bishop St. Turn west (uphill) on Bishop and left on Prospect St. Go 2.5 blocks to dead end. Park on street near kiosk to your right. Parking is limited, so consider carpooling, walking, or biking; a bike rack is available.

    Email alliance@smgreenbelt.org for more information.

    Silver Award Presented to G.O.T. 2B Green Day Organizers

    On October 24, six members of Girl Scout Troop 881 received the silver award for their G.O.T. 2B Green Day project which introduced Prospect Park to over 100 visitors one Saturday morning last May. The silver award is the highest honor to be earned by Cadette Girl Scouts ages 11-14 or grades 6-9. These girls continue to be true ambassadors of the San Marcos natural areas. We congratulate Lindsey Burton, Sabine Hahn, Hunter McMain, Katie Obst, Sara Jo Porterfield, and Elora Smith for their hard work and well-earned silver award. And we look forward to their great ideas for their gold award!

    Purgatory Cleaned Up


    Thanks to the Chi Omegas and 20 amazing volunteer leaders for joining SMGA on October 9 to clean up Purgatory Creek Natural Area on a beautiful Saturday morning. A few of the tasks accomplished:

    • Removed most of the tin from the learning tree
    • Removed the old learning tree kiosk roof
    • Trimmed tree near the compass
    • Raked & planted wildflowers seeds
    • Cleaned, dug out, painted the bollards
    • Picked up trash
    • Closed off the dead end trails
    • Collected osage seeds
    • Removed unnecessary silt fences
    • Moved cedar posts for use as waterbars
    Thank you to the Chi Omegas, Heather Powdrill with Keep San Marcos Beautiful, and SMGA volunteers Kristen Norberg, Bridgett Phillips & Sean Welch w/ Kason & Joaquim, Kenny Skrobanek & Christine, Adam Wagner w/ Annie & Lukas, Ann Wise, Tina Ybarra, Matt & family, and SMGA board members Todd Derkacz, Maggie Hutchins, and Charlie O'Neil.

    Fall Colors at Ringtail Ridge

    Just in time for our moonlight hike at Ringtail Ridge, the fall colors have arrived, Texas style. While working the trails this morning the soapberry leaves were turning color. Not as vibrant as in previous years but a discernible warm yellow hue. Flowers in bloom include buffalo gourd, mealy blue sage, frostweed, and the common sunflower. The cypress tree planted last Spring was watered as the pond has been reduced to a mud pit.

    Update on Local Developments from SMRF

    Thanks to SMRF for keeping us up to date on local developments.

    10/19:
    BUIE TRACT:  Another item on the agenda: the rezoning of a small piece of the Buie Tract land is up for a decision, but everyone already knows how the current majority on Council will vote on that. This was the piece that was pulled by the developer so that the neighbors' petition could not reach the threshold of requiring a supermajority, which would have killed the rezoning.   This does not mean that the battle is over.   The missing items in the geological assessment are still on all the fault maps and other kinds of maps for Hays County, so we will continue to make that hard to ignore, as these tall apartment and commercial buildings are being proposed to be built on top of some of these missing faults and caves.  The other mystery that we continue to pursue is how the bulldozing was allowed to happen several years ago, with stakes lined up where the Craddock extension was planned by the city.   This bulldozing went on with no permits obtained by the landowners at the time, no biological opinion from USFWS, etc.  We continue to dig on this issue.

    Related stories in SMLN:
    http://www.newstreamz.com/2010/10/07/pz-approves-rezoning-of-buie-tract-parcel/ 
    http://www.newstreamz.com/2010/10/21/buie-tract-wins-final-zoning-approval-in-4-3-vote/

    PASO ROBLES:   This subdivision is mentioned in the agenda as possibly coming back for reconsideration, but someone who voted for it last time would have to bring it back for a vote, and the current majority group of council people who voted for it are not going to do that.  But again, this does not mean that this battle is over either.  There are many ways that the issue of watering over the recharge zone with wastewater could continue to be worked on, and SMRF will be doing all we can.  Citizens surrounding that area need to keep up the good work of talking to Council members, writing them too, and hope that there will be a more sensible set of decisions made in the future on this tract.  cityhall@sanmarcostx.gov

    Related story in SMLN: http://www.newstreamz.com/2010/10/06/city-council-hires-nuse-approves-paso-robles-deal/

    PASO ROBLES:  Paso Robles was on the agenda and unfortunately much incorrect info was given during this long agenda item.  It appears that some Councilmembers still do not understand the water pollution consequences of watering in that location with wastewater.  Nor do they seem to comprehend that the drinking water wells around that location do not have treatment plants to remove the chemicals that infiltrate the aquifer from the wastewater irrigation and the operation of the golf course. Worst of all, we learned that the city taxpayers are going to pay for whatever baseline testing might be done, and there is nothing agreed on that makes the developer pay for cleanup if pollution is found.  The rezoning was approved, 5-2, with Councilmen Thomaides and Bose against.  Narvaiz, Porterfield, Terry, Thomason and Jones voted for approval.

    10/4:
    WINDEMERE: The developers DID get approval last week of the entrance road in the Sink Creek floodplain, so they can build 75 homes.   Planning commission members obviously had qualms about the flooding expected there, over that roadway, but incorrectly felt that they had to allow the variance.  We will be watching for the watershed plan filed for this area and intervening if necessary.  We also learned that the city is drilling six test holes in the Spring Lake preserve to determine whether they can place a wastewater line in this preserve, the same huge line that has caused such problems with sinking soil along Lime Kiln Rd.  This wastewater line will serve the University, the city has stated, the part of San Marcos that is around Sagewood and Craddock, and of course, Windemere.   They have not proposed to do any special second lining or other measures to alert emergency workers when leaks happen in this line, which will drain straight to Sink Creek and thus Spring Lake. ( If you read the paper any given week, there are notices about leaks in sewer lines in cities all over central Texas.  TCEQ requires these notices to be published.  It just points out that sewer lines leak fairly often.) San Marcos will need these extra measures to protect the river if we want to keep swimming in it in the future.  The time to implement these is when you build the line, not later when you have to dig it up again.  Or perhaps we should just find a different location for such lines to start with.  At any rate, if you wish to tell council your opinions on this variance to allow the entrance road to Windemere, which would allow them to develop the banks of Sink Creek just before it goes into Spring Lake, you can email cityhall@sanmarcostx.gov or come to the Council meeting to speak this Tuesday, Oct. 5, 7 p.m. or a little before then if you wish to sign up to speak.  

    BLANCO VISTA: The Blanco Vista homeowners turned out in force last week and certainly got the attention of Planning commission members.  The item was postponed so the developer could work with the residents on exactly where the 900 new apartments might be placed in their single family community.  This is the same developer that plans to build Paso Robles.  The concerns of this group were very similar to issues brought up about the apartments of the Buie Tract.  It will be interesting to see how it turns out. This item has been postponed until December.  Newstreamz.com has had interesting articles on this and on the 3 developments on the recharge zone.

    Linear Parks: Business Investment in San Antonio

    Colin McDonald, San Antonio Express-News, 10/07/2010:
    For Mayor Juli├ín Castro, protecting the Edwards Aquifer and expanding the city's network of linear parks are a business investment and the reason he wants voters to support Proposition 1 and 2. “The economic vitality of San Antonio is tied to the quantity and quality of our water supply,” he said Wednesday at a news conference to promote the propositions...

    If passed, Proposition 1 and Proposition 2 would continue an existing 1/8-cent sales tax that first was approved by voters in 2000 and reapproved in 2005:
    • About $90 million of the revenue would buy land and development rights over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. So far, 96,000 acres have been protected.
    • Under Proposition 2, about $45 million of the sales tax proceeds would continue the construction of linear parks across the city. To date, 47 miles of trails have been built, are under construction or being designed.
    View map and story at http://www.mysanantonio.com/livinggreensa/sales_tax_extension_is_pushedto_boost_aquifer_linear_parks_104462584.html

    Joy in the Tap Water?

    Dan Buettner, Parade Magazine, 10/03/2010:
    What are the happiest spots on Earth—and what secrets can we glean from them? One utopia [Dan Buettner's] travels took him to is San Luis Obispo, near California’s Central Coast, where joy seems to be in the tap water.
    Dan includes boost biking and walking and create a greenbelt in his list of community attributes that increase satisfaction. Read more at http://www.parade.com/news/2010/10/03-youll-wish-you-were-here.html

    Dragonfly Magic in Prospect Park

    The dragonfly photo to the right was taken Sunday, September 26, late morning, at Prospect Park. I was rushing through, having decided on a whim to make a quick visit. As soon as I stepped onto the stone that borders the pond, I saw a dragonfly hovering with its tail down toward the water. I assumed it was a female laying eggs and took a picture. It wasn’t until I checked the display screen on my camera that I saw the second dragonfly. Then I understood that the first dragonfly I had seen must be the male “contact guard,” keeping an eye on the female while she laid her eggs.

    I had only learned about this practice recently, but had yet to observe it, at least not in the egg-laying process. Male dragonflies remove from the female any sperm previously deposited by another male. While some females lay their eggs alone, others are guarded by the male to ensure another male doesn’t intervene and switch out his sperm. Some may simply hover nearby, while others actually attach themselves to the female, as seen in the photo above. More about dragonfly reproduction

    I don’t know which species the dragonflies are; maybe someone else can tell me. I love the way their golden wings are reflected in the water. In the photo, a little golden rainbow can be seen arcing over the water toward the egg site, as if to bless or vitalize this new birth.

    It was hard for me to believe such a quick visit could be so mesmerizing. I felt a deep sense of blessing to be living in a place where devoted guardians maintain sanctuaries of nature, enchantment is still possible, and everyday magic can be perceived by anyone who takes a little time to look.

    Gena Fleming, SMGA Natural Area Monitor

    We're on Facebook!


    Thanks to Bridgett Phillips and Catherine Eberle, you can now find us on Facebook! Please join our page and spread the word to your friends to do the same!

    Full Moon Hike at Ringtail Ridge, October 23

    Join us Saturday, October 23 at 6:00 p.m. for a full moon hike at Ringtail Ridge. We'll be joined by Jon Cradit of the Edwards Aquifer Authority. After the hike, we'll enjoy S'mores and celebrate all of the hard work by SMGA trail builders, TX State Bobcat Builders, and city staff at Ringtail this past year. So, bring your walking shoes, a drink, a chair, and maybe even some scary Halloween stories and have some fun with us.

    NEW LOCATION: Purgatory Creek Clean Up, Saturday Oct 9

    SMGA clean up moved to Purgatory Creek Natural Area. Meet at San Marcos Plaza Park Stage (401 E. Hopkins) at 9:00 a.m.

    Join SMGA to clean up Purgatory Creek Natural Area beginning at the Wonder World trail head. We're partnering with Keep San Marcos Beautiful and the San Marcos River Clean Up for one big ol' morning of river/creek litter pick up. Review the schedule below to find out where to be on this important clean-up day.

    9:00 a.m. Meet and register at San Marcos Plaza Park Stage (401 E. Hopkins). Breakfast tacos will be provided by Napolitos and coffee by Jo on the Go.

    9:30 a.m. After registration and breakfast, we will split the group. Half of the group will travel to the Wonder World trailhead of the Purgatory Creek Natural Area with SMGA. Please car pool! The other half will stay at the San Marcos River to canoe, snorkel and walk the bank of the river collecting trash and recyclables.

    1:00 p.m. BBQ lunch provided by Fuschak’s will be served at 1 p.m. to end the day with a trash and recyclables count to follow.

    For more information call Heather Powdrill, Community Beautification Coordinator at 512-393-8420 or email her at hpowdrill@sanmarcostx.gov. Or email SMGA at alliance@smgreenbelt.org.

    Thank You Booth Volunteers

    SMGA had a very busy Saturday, September 25, with two booths - PetFest and GreenFest. Thanks to some new and energetic volunteers, we were able to provide information to many people new to the San Marcos natural areas. Thank you Tiffany Delane, Liz Garcia, Eric Kirby, Kristen Norberg, and Angelika Fuller!

    Stewardship / Natural Areas Update

    Stewardship Committee
    • SMGA's stewardship chair, Julie King, is moving on to bigger and better things - or at least on to cooler and higher places in Colorado. We truly wish her the best!
    Purgatory Creek Greenspace
    • SMGA is looking for a couple of volunteers to identify appropriate locations for directional signs in Purgatory, including in the upper and lower portions and the WonderWorld extension. If you're interested, email alliance@smgreenbelt.org and we'll send you more information. 
    • Todd Derkacz and Dick McBride install blazes in Purgatory in the photo to the right. More blazes coming soon!
    Ringtail Ridge
    • SMGA is finishing up the grant requirements for the TPWD grant. Bike racks are installed, kiosks are being updated, trail blazes are being installed, and entrance signs are on the way. 
    • We've had lots of volunteers put in time building a new bridge at the back of the ADA accessible trail. Todd and Colin Castro shown to the left tote lumber to build the beauty depicted below: thanks to the many hands helping on this project!
    • Parks & Rec mowed the ADA trail and entrances to the single-track trails. Good times for Ringtail!
    Spring Lake Preserve
    • Contractors for the City of San Marcos are drilling soil samples in Spring Lake to test the soil for a potential waste water line. There should only be about 6 holes drilled. Let SMGA know if you see anything.
    • Harris Road Company of Wimberley has been chosen to build an ADA accessible trail at Spring Lake, so you may see survey marks.
    - Updates provided by Maggie Hutchins, SMGA President

    Last Day to Register to Vote: Monday 10/4!

    Be sure you are registered to vote in the important elections coming up very soon. Voter Registration Applications are available at the Hays County Elections Office, other county offices, libraries, post offices, Texas Department of Public Safety offices and Texas Department of Human Services. Additionally, you may obtain an application by calling (512) 393-7310 or click https://webservices.sos.state.tx.us/forms/vr17.pdf to get an application on-line.

    Mark your calender now!

    Early Voting: Monday October 18 – Friday October 29
    General Election Day: November 2, 2010, 7:00 to 7:00

    Update on Local Developments (SMRF)

    SMGA promotes responsible development. We do not object to new development in general; we live in a growing area and maintaining dense growth in town will reduce pressure on outlying areas to develop. But we do object to development that seriously impairs the ecology, the watershed and recharge zone, and the habitat of endangered species. We encourage the citizens of San Marcos to be aware of the issues and to voice suggestions, revisions, and thoughts at public input sessions.

    Thanks to SMRF for keeping the community informed with the information below. We encourage you to subscribe to the SMRF newsletter so you can read their updates first hand and play an active part in shaping our community. Subscribe by emailing wassenich@grandecom.net

    P&Z TUESDAY NIGHT, Sept. 28, tomorrow, starting at 6 p.m.   Go a few minutes early to sign up to speak.  Two major recharge zone developments are on the agenda, Buie Tract, Windemere, plus the developer of Paso Robles is up about their other development, Blanco Vista. At Council last week, many people FOR Paso Robles stood up to read a very flawed letter from the geologist of Paso Robles which the city has posted on their website. They read from it, in series, each reading a paragraph to refute SMRF's concerns about the aquifer. The newspapers said that there were an overwhelming number of people FOR Paso Robles speaking at the meeting, and they were right. However, we let them know that Dr. Longley of the EARDC would be sending them the SA golf course requirements for their recharge zone in San Antonio, and SMRF was going to stand firm with the aquifer scientists and oppose using wastewater for irrigation on recharge, contributing and transition zones of the property, as well as oppose the pesticides and chemicals that would harm the wells in the aquifer. Thanks to the few of you who came to speak as well, making very good points...Email planning_info@sanmarcostx.gov with your thoughts. We urge you to be there Tuesday.

    BLANCO VISTA: The Blanco Vista subdivision built by the same developers as Paso Robles is now asking P&Z to approve 900 apartments that were not in its original plans. This change is for financial reasons since lots are not selling at Blanco Vista. Also they are proposing some commercial or retail to be scattered throughout what was supposed to be a single family master-planned community. This is going to be quite controversial among those homeowners who have already built, I would imagine, and relevant to Paso Robles since it is the same developer. But P&Z has total control on whether this happens; we hear it does not go to Council normally afterwards for this kind of "minor" change. See P&Z meetings online or on TV, they are on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday evenings at 6, each month. But it is best to attend.

    WINDEMERE:  We were finally able to get the plans for Windemere's new road concept from the city, showing how Windemere will try to get a variance at P&Z on Sept. 28 to build a narrower entrance road than required. The entrance is on the very border of the 100 year flood plain of Sink Creek, for the 75 homes they plan to build on part of it. Sink Creek flows to Spring Lake. They are saving part of their property for later for commercial and apartments (shown on earlier plans), in hopes that the city will extend Craddock to their property across the huge canyon of Sink Creek.  Since this bridge costs many millions, it may not happen right away. Their variance, if P&Z grants it, will allow them to have an entrance road right of way that is 47 ft wide instead of the 60 required in city ordinances. They will eliminate the bike path and also the space between the sidewalks and the pavement, in order to get by with this narrow right of way. There will still be sidewalks but they will be right on the curb. They will raise the road slightly because a part is in the flood plain. This road will still be a problem in case of a big flood or a fire, as it will be the only entrance for the 75 homes, and we will point that out to P&Z.  To write to P&Z, use planning_info@sanmarcostx.gov. Sign up to speak before the 6 p.m. meeting on Sept. 28, and this development is also on the recharge zone, like part of Paso Robles.

    BUIE TRACT: Our engineer's recent study of the Buie Tract geologic assessment approved by TCEQ has found many deficiencies besides the ones we already pointed out in our protest of this third project on the recharge zone. We have been trying to get maps of the watershed plan the Buie Tract is almost finished with, since they have worked on it with the city for several weeks. Our open records request made about two weeks ago was lost at city hall but we finally got the map Friday. Meanwhile, the P&Z meeting on Sept. 28 will see the developers come back to try to change the zoning on the small 2.2 acre tract that they left out last time, in order to cut out part of the homeowners who had signed a petition against the development. The city accepted this maneuver as legal, and so the citizen's petition was just barely short of enough signatures to require a supermajority at council to vote for the rezoning. It would likely have failed last time if the 2.2 acre tract was not cut out in that very unusual maneuver. Now this 2.2 acre tract is coming back, to be rezoned to Mixed Use so commercial uses can be placed up against the existing single family homes on that corner of Craddock and Bishop down to Grant Court. To express your views, email planning_info@sanmacostx.gov or show up the 28th.

    TXDOT & COSM Bike Surveys

    Many visitors to our parks and natural areas arrive by bike to hike or ride bikes in the park. Here is a useful and very current note from SMGA member Adam Wagner:
    It’s soon to be October, the weather will cool, and the fall riding season will be in full swing. Before you jump on the bike, check the tubes, tires, lube the chain, and be sure to let someone know where you are going. No, not just the normal friends or family, but this time share your ride with the City of San Marcos and the Texas Department of Transportation. Both entities are looking for input on bicycle improvements. The links below will direct you to the studies. The city’s survey is short and sweet and builds on the the September 9th city meeting. TXDOT’s survey is more involved, but it is tailored to locations in the Austin District (including San Marcos). Please take a few minutes and let the city and TXDOT know your thoughts about cycling.

    No Impact Week at TX State

    No impact week starts Sunday Sept. 29 and runs through October 3rd. Take advantage of a week's worth of movies, events, seminars, and so much more! Check out the full No Impact Week schedule here.

    Be sure to note these events on the Texas State campus:

    Sept 22: Colin Beavan, Strahan Coliseum, 7 pm

    Sept 25: Discover TX State GreenFest, LBJ Mall, 10 am - 2 pm

    Sept 29: Farmers Market, Quad, 4-7 pm. Over 20 local vendors with fresh produce and foods ready to eat, yum yum.

    Here is a link to the complete Common Experience calendar.

    Thank You to Parks & Recreation

    Update from SMGA President, Maggie Hutchins:
    I am happy to announce that the Parks & Recreation Department installed butterstick rocks to block auto access to Blanco Shoals greenspace. I checked to see if the rocks were working after a rainy weekend, and I'm happy to say that there was no evidence of 'mudding.'

    The Parks & Recreation crew also mowed the ADA accessible trail and entrances to the single-track trail at Ringtail Ridge in August, which assisted trail maintenance efforts in that park immensely. The SMGA trail crew and monitors especially are thrilled. It is wonderful to be able to walk the trail without being overwhelmed by overgrowth.

    SMGA will continue to work with PARD to get more city maintenance on our trails. Both the rocks at Blanco Shoals and the mowing of the ADA trail at Ringtail Ridge has helped SMGA focus our energy on other aspects of the natural areas and create a safer environment and overall better experience for the park patrons.

    Meet Colin Castro

    You may have seen Colin working hard at Ringtail Ridge helping install a new bridge or improve other local natural area amenities. He is working as an intern with SMGA and the San Marcos River Foundation this semester and is a joy to work with. Get to know Colin by reading his introduction below, and be sure to say hi and thank you next time you see him!

    My name is Colin Castro, and I will be graduating with a BSAS in Applied Sociology and a minor in Psychology. I am interested in the greenspaces because nature is where I spend all of my time, and it intrigues me. I am trying to form a better idea of how physical arrangements affect patterns of human interaction. I am an avid outdoorsmen. Whether I am on my mountain bike, climbing rocks, kayaking/canoeing, or just sitting alone fishing, nature has a hold on me, as well as the group of people I tend to surround myself with. I came from Humble, TX, a city on the outskirts of Houston, where what little green-spaces we had were so trashed and disrespected it was hard to appreciate them. When I got to the Hill Country I was absolutely blown away with the quantity as well as the quality of the green-spaces. I adopted a reverence for these ecosystems that will be impossible to ignore for the remainder of my days. I want to help maintain the beauty of these natural areas so that when other people make use of them they can learn to respect the land as it should be.

    Naturescapes Award Winners & Auction

    The 6th annual Naturescapes Photography Contest winners were announced September 11th at the San Marcos Activity Center. (See winners and photos below.) 

    The annual event continues to grow in attendance and quality as members of SMGA and Hill Country Photography Club join forces to spotlight the natural areas of Hays county through photographs. This year's contest was judged by Adolfo Isassi, who has exhibited his work at fine art galleries around Central Texas. Sixty-five photographs from the event will remain on exhibit at the San Marcos Activity Center until November 5th. SMGA's silent auction returned for a second year and helped with funding of projects, including trail building, monitoring local natural areas, and the Loop & Check / greenbelt master planning process. 

    It takes many volunteers and contributors to make such a cool event happen. The Crystal Creek Boys (Matt Lochman, Nick Lochman, Ian Lee, Austin Reeves and our own Mary VanZandt) performed a soothing blend of old-time and contemporary folk music before the winners were announced. Linda Kelsy-Jones served as both curator and caterer with help from Leah Molina, Kathy Rogers, and SMGA board members. The food was sooo good! Chloe Yingst and Johnny Villarreal assisted Linda with exhibition set up and San Marcos Parks and Recreation helped with award certificates and photo collection. Thanks also go to Dianne Wassenich for help with food and auction set up and to Lance Jones, event photographer. Sharon O'Neil assisted with auction set up and checkout.

    Please take some time to look at our list of silent auction donors and give them some business or a hearty thanks when you can. Thanks to Mike Derkacz who has been a sponsor for two years in a row.

    The awards were presented by Todd Derkacz of SMGA and Art Arizpe of the HCPC. In remarks before the awards Todd suggested we consider, "every photograph an invitation from nature carried on the stationary of a gifted and passionate photographer. It reads: Look at me, visit me..."  

    The awards were as follows:

    Best in Show
    Longhorn Grazing, Lucy Durfee, Dripping Springs 

    Best in San Marcos Area
    Rubyspot #8, Scott Mitchell, San Marcos River

    Awards of Excellence
    Winter Sunrise, Herb Smith, Blanco River
    In Flight, Paul Keese, Aquarena Springs
    Roadrunner, Carolyn Whiteside, San Marcos
    Doe (Infrared), Winifred Simon, Wimberley

    Awards of Merit
    • Best Depictions of San Marcos Fun and Life:
    Toobin' Fun, Jane Guerin, Wimberley
    OMG!, Linda Keese, San Marcos River
    • Intriguing & Evocative:
    What is It?, Lois Schubert, Aquarena Springs
    • Creative Interpretation:
    Down River, Herb Smith, Wimberley
    Vintage Skyride, Carol Serur, Aquarena Springs

    Articles of Interest - September

    City council approves Paso Robles annexation
    http://www.newstreamz.com/2010/09/22/council-approves-paso-robles-annexation-agreement/
    The council will take on the second reading, as well as the first reading of a development agreement, on Oct. 5.

    Letter to the editor: Pollution and Paso Robles
    http://www.newstreamz.com/2010/09/20/letter-to-the-editor-pollution-and-paso-robles/
    In this letter to the editor, the San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF) argues that the proposed Paso Robles development, which is to be taken up Tuesday night by the San Marcos City Council, poses the threat of pollution for the Edwards Aquifer. The SMRF urges citizens to pay attention and get involved.

    Carma seeks concept plan change for Blanco Vista
    http://www.newstreamz.com/2010/09/16/carma-seeks-concept-plan-change-for-blanco-vista/
    Carma Texas is attempting to change its concept plan for the Blanco Vista development to include more townhomes and multi-family units...

    City-County Soccer Complex Dedication Slated Sept. 18
    http://www.ci.san-marcos.tx.us/news/Docs/10Sept13_5milepark.pdf

    Bike plan meeting draws large turnout
    http://www.newstreamz.com/2010/09/10/bike-plan-meeting-draws-large-turnout

    Carma nixes plan for grey water over golf course
    http://www.newstreamz.com/2010/09/08/carma-nixes-plan-for-grey-water-over-golf-course/

    County expects five park projects to vie for $3.5M remaining from bond
    http://www.newstreamz.com/2010/09/07/county-expects-five-park-projects-to-vie-for-remaining-3-5m/

    Windemere developers cut plan to 75 dwellings
    http://www.newstreamz.com/2010/09/02/windemere-developers-cut-down-plan-to-75-dwellings/

    Wind transmission lines across Hill Country face holdup at Public Utility Commission
    http://www.statesman.com/news/texas-politics/wind-transmission-lines-across-hill-country-face-holdup-888516.html, Aug. 30, 2010