Bobcat Build Makes Long Term Improvements to Ringtail Ridge

Saturday, March 27th broke chilly and cloudy but when the work day was called it was sunny and in the 80's.  Almost 100 yards of the ADA trail was repaired, and new erosion measures were put in place. A new Montezuma cypress tree was planted in the first pond.  Many strands of barbed wire and fence posts were removed. And the single-track trails were made fresh and obstruction-free. 

More than 65 students and teachers from Texas State University, SMGA board members and trail crew and another roughly dozen City of San Marcos employees devoted more than 300 man-hours to the improvements to the trail.

The cypress planting crew was lead by Jo Ellen Korthals who said of the students, "The stalwart young men that planted the 8’ Montezuma cypress sacrificed their shoes in an effort to plant the tree with its roots in the water. They also cleared a wide area around the viewing bench. In the coming years, we look forward to watching the cypress spread its branches over the pond."

Spring rains are responsible for the tremendous growth in grasses, wildflowers and just plain weeds that cover the 40+ acre greenspace. The former site of the Hughson Meat Packing plant has three tanks or offal ponds that contain rainwater in amounts not seen in years. The property was acquired by the city in exchange for an increase in land-use density on adjacent property. The all important greenspace resides in the Edward's Aquifer recharge zone and several karst features throughout the land give evidence to the drainage of rainwater directly to the aquifer.

Heather Powdrill is the Community Beautification Coordinator for the City of San Marcos.“The City is grateful for the many dedicated student volunteers that we had working at our parks, greenspaces, Nature Center and downtown this year. Over 250 volunteers came out Saturday to beautify, clean and restore these areas totaling about 160 acres. Bobcat Build  was an amazing event that allowed student residents and non-student residents to work together and create positive interactions.”

The annual Bobcat Build community service project of Texas State University bumps up the number of volunteer hours devoted to trail maintenance. A regular band of SMGA trail crew members spread their efforts through all six greenspaces owned by the city throughout the year. Click here for more photos from Bobcat Build.

2009 Accomplishments

Here are just a few highlights from our 2009 accomplishments:

  • Ongoing: Consult with landowners (residents and developers) to assist in placing more land under conservation agreements and minimizing impacts from sprawl.
  • Participated in public input sessions for the San Marcos parks and open space master planning process.
  • Built approximately 2 miles of trail, including re-routes at Spring Lake, Upper Purgatory and Ringtail Ridge.
  • Monitor and report conditions within natural areas to land managers at City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department.
  • Advocated for and assisted City of San Marcos and its contractors with the design of trails extending from Lower Purgatory to Hunter Road using WonderWorld Drive right of way. Planning included overpass upgrade on Hunter Road over Purgatory Creek to facilitate bike and pedestrian traffic. New designs support master plan of trail extending from Upper Purgatory to the San Marcos River.
  • Installed way-finding blazes in Prospect and at the entrance to Spring Lake Preserve to assist visitors.
  • Completed an armored creek crossing in Schulle Canyon to enable regular visitors and biped commuters to enter from the North and West side of the park, and planted trees at the entrance of Ringtail Ridge.
  • Received and managed grant funding from Texas Parks and Wildlife to expand accessible trail opportunities and make improvements at Ringtail Ridge Greenspace.
  • Developed blog-style format for The Loop newsletter to facilitate article contributions and streamline editing process.
  • Developed pages featuring Schulle and Purgatory greenspaces and hike schedule for City of San Marcos Parks & Recreation Activity Guide.
  • Added page to web site encouraging volunteers to visit a new, blog-style page of numerous volunteer opportunities formulated by board and committee members.
  • Fundraising activities included selling over 150 boxes of greeting cards designed using Naturescapes photos, a silent auction held in tandem with the Naturescapes reception, and selection by Texas State’s Information Technologies department as the recipient of proceeds from a fish fry luncheon.

Where On The Trail Is This?

How carefully do you observe what is around you?

We were working at preventing or at least reducing the erosion on the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Access) trail at Ringtail Ridge, when a Texas State student looked up into the live oaks and elms and noticed a peculiar sight. A red-shouldered hawk met its demise after becoming entangled in the branches. Your comments and hypotheses as to how this might have happened are welcomed and encouraged.

The greenbelt trails that circle the city are thriving with activity. The wildflowers are just starting to bloom and the butterflies, bees and other insects are making the most of this very wet spring. 

Look for an article in The Loop about the accomplishments of Texas State students, faculty, SMGA trail crew and San Marcos city workers during the recent Bobcat Build effort March 27th.

-- Lance Jones

San Marcos River Walkers Sponsor Prospect Park and City Hike April 10

The San Marcos River Walkers invite you to a 10K walk on April 10 featuring the trails in Prospect Park. The walk begins at Dunbar Activity Center; one loop passes through older neighborhoods and goes into Prospect Park. This park offers a good walking trail and geographic features of the Hill Country such as sinkholes, wetlands and oak mottes. Educational signs explain these features. The second loop goes through the historic Dunbar neighborhood and through the center of the city, passing the Amtrak station and an older railroad station.

Routes are on park trails, sidewalks and pavement.  Wheelchairs and strollers need to stay on the ADA trail in Prospect Park. Others may continue on a single track dirt trail that is rated 2+ in difficulty due to the limestone outcroppings and rise and dips in the trail. Rewards include an extra 1K credit and fields of bluebonnets and other wildflowers along the trail.

Dogs are not allowed in Dunbar Center building and must be on a leash at all times; cleanup is mandatory. This walk qualifies for the Railroad Heritage, 35 on 35, and Museum Walk America special events. You may register (801 Martin Luther King St., San Marcos) any time between 8 a.m. and noon and must finish by 3 p.m. Contact Barbara Piersol at 512-396-4463 or The walk is an IVV sanctioned event and more information can be found at
-- Marilyn Brister

Dahlstrom Ranch Access - Public Input Meeting, March 31

Wednesday, March 31
6:00-8:00 pm
San Marcos Activity Center

Hays County and its partners in the Dahlstrom Ranch conservation easement will hold a public meeting March 31 at the San Marcos Activity Center to gather input from residents on certain aspects of public access, including educational and other programs, hours of operation, and fees. This is a great opportunity to learn more about this project and provide your own input on public access at the Dahlstrom Ranch. Click here to visit the Hill Country Conservancy web site for more information.

Emergency Alert! Get Out!!!

Get outside that is. Spring sprang last week and is rapidly unfolding in all this wonderful weather. Most people at work know it is but are stuck inside staring at their computer screen, pushing product or serving others. Get out! Pack your lunch and go to the park for a noon time picnic. Take an extra hour in the morning to hike a trail. knock off early to relax by the river. Get up, get out and be in it before it's too late.

Take someone in the next office. Put down what ever digital devise has you in thrall and let the glory of our living world delight you. The fragrance and color of the blossoms, the diverse melody of birdsong the warmth of the sun (before it's too hot).

Last year's rains will yield a spectacular bloom this year.

Note to supervisors everywhere: be sure those in your charge are given ample time to amble among the beauty. Surely their productivity will improve.

Note to all parents: There are many activities on the kids plates but if they don't have time or the means to get out and hike for an hour or two, something is wrong and they are the worse off for it.

So, get out! Enjoy the beauty. And let us know if you need any suggestions, Hope to see you on the trail!

Geology Hike at Spring Lake Preserve

SMGA sponsored its first hike of 2010 on Saturday, February 27 at Spring Lake Preserve. Andy Grubbs, a local geologist who is quite familiar with our area, led 9 of us on a geology based tour of the area. Spring Lake has many layers of the Balcones faultline from Eagle-Ford down to Edwards Limestone. We noted the buds on the Mexican buckeye and the agarita and noted many blooms already popping out. It was a gorgeous early spring day with lots of bird serenade and, with Andy's help, very enlightening. Thanks Dick McBride for the photos.

Andy talking about the Eagle-Ford formation and the Georgetown layer.


Who or what made this mighty big hole?

Sink Creek amazement - standing water!

Trail Work at Ringtail Ridge March 4, 2010

The weather is certainly better and with Spring right around the corner the work has just begun on the trails.  Dick McBride and Kay Banning shovel crushed gravel for use in repairing the washed-out sections of trail at Ringtail Ridge.

The popular hike and bike trail will be the site of this year's Bobcat Build and Don't Mess with Texas project.  Not to complain about the rains, but we noted areas of the trail that could use some TLC.
The Bobcat Build is March 27 but you don't have to be a student to lend a hand.  See our volunteer page for opportunities to get physical and get outside!

Two things in abundance at Ringtail Ridge off RR 12 is the Chinaberry trees and prickly pear cactus.  When the cactus stands encroach on the trail then John gets to work with his special tool that trims and hooks the pads for easy disposal.

Managing the invasive native and not native plants at all the greenspaces is a long-term goal of SMGA. If you'd like to help out with the surveys or removing the plants contact us through the volunteer page or plan on attending our annual meeting.

This year's annual meeting promises to be educational, informative and just plain, good social event.

One of the hardest working volunteers at the weekly trail crew projects is Sheila Torres-Blank.  Hauling crushed gravel to the farthest reach of the ADA trail (Americans with Disabilities Accesible) is no easy feat but needs doing.  Providing both repairs to the trail and making water run-off management corrections to prevent more erosion were part of this week's work.  If you'd like to join us with trail work or have a special skill and we need many different skills; contact us through our new volunteer page.

You Are the Measure of Our Success

There are a bunch of wonderful people who volunteer their time and energy to help SMGA conserve and enhance our natural areas. They hold the vision of having healthy natural places near where we live, knowing that these places are part of the secret to living healthy, happy lives.

SMGA generally measures success by the amount and location of land that is conserved. But we also measure success by the health and diversity of those places and the ability of our neighbors, young and old, to access them and enjoy nature. We have and are continuing to make progress.

But our volunteers and our natural areas need your help. They need you to join SMGA or renew your membership.  They need you to follow the issues of conservation in our area and to speak out on behalf of those places that might otherwise be paved over or abused.

Please help us measure up to what we know is right, what we know is needed to make our community a place to live, learn, work and play - a place we (and all the critters) are pleased to call home.

A New Measure of Care

There is a saying that goes something like: you can measure the moral strength and kindness of a society by how well it takes care of the children and the elderly. It is one of those sentiments that rings true up against the many self-serving distractions and competing interests for time and resources that we could otherwise apply for care of the vulnerable.

But this idea, though noble, is incomplete and so "last century". Conspicuously missing from the list of the vulnerable is our Living Planet.

This paper thin phenomena that we call life that envelopes the water slogged, molten mass of mineral we call Earth is unique beyond words. In a cosmos of unfathomable distance and variety, it is likely that we might find other forms of life. But it would be rare to find living conditions as specific and unique as this Living Planet, conditions that would allow humanity as we know it to thrive.

Through the course of human history Nature was the realm of both creation and destruction: the seas that swallowed our ships but gave us fish, the land that toppled our buildings but grew our grains, and skies that flooded our homes but gave us nourishing rain.

Now we find ourselves reducing Nature. Nature no longer means the whole, vast and unknowable power that was the tool of God where Nature could never be tamed except in little corners with only the hope of permanence in spite of its power to destroy. Today we re-engineer it, usurp it, trash it, hide from it and force much of its uniqueness into extinction. We still succumb to its powers as made clear in Haiti and Chile but we have stepped over a threshold in which Nature now suffers wholly at our whim. It seems only a matter of time before even earthquakes will be of little consequence.

We need a new mind to sustain Life on Earth. We can no more ignore the source of our sustenance any more than we can ignore children. To do so is to cause an erosion of our health and perhaps our demise.

We have to cultivate a better relationship with Nature beginning at home and in our community. It must be personal and public, it must be intimate and civic. We will get what we give. In this case, a love of the living world will yield a healthy, diverse ecology in which we are protectors and patrons of its complexity and resilience. In return it will give us the air, water, food, health, beauty, joy, inspiration, wisdom and meaning we need to thrive.

We can measure ourselves by how well we care for the children, elderly, infirm, pets and, really, all life on the Living Planet.  It has so much to give us in return. If our relationships are healthy, we can all be healthy for a long time to come...t.o.d.