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.

  • 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.