Greenbelt Added to the Parks Master Plan

The San Marcos Planning & Zoning Commission approved the Parks Master Plan on August 10. The commission passed the plan with amendments to add 6 city-owned parks that had been overlooked in the first draft and incorporate a Greenbelt Master Plan into the document.

As opposed to an free-standing greenspace, a greenbelt is a long swath or corridor of open land that could ultimately surround the city. A greenbelt has trails providing interconnected transportation routes as well as wildlife corridors, habitat, and watershed protection. The plan that SMGA envisions contains land that goes mainly along the San Marcos River, Blanco River, Purgatory Creek, Sink Creek, Willow Springs Creek, Cottonwood Creek and Crystal Creek. Parkland in these areas happens quite naturally due to the difficulty of building in floodplains. Small swaths of land would connect local creeks to create a loop all the way around the city.

You would be surprised to see that the many acres that have been acquired as existing parkland by the city already fit into this vision. SMGA volunteers have built miles of trails in these greenspaces - trails with an orientation set for future connectivity.

SMGA has been working for many years with the city and others to develop greenbelts and a Greenbelt Master Plan. This new addition to the Parks Master Plan will be an evolution of our Loop & Check concept shown below. Our goal is that parks that are destined to be created as the city grows will fit into the Greenbelt Master Plan and put San Marcos on the map as an outstanding and forward-thinking city.


Volunteers Needed: 9/25 Pet Fest & GreenFest

SMGA needs a few volunteers to help with booths at Pet Fest and GreenFest. No experience necessary: we'll train on site. This is an excellent way to learn more about SMGA.

Description: Assist in our booth at Pet Fest and Texas State's GreenFest by providing literature and information.
Approximate time requirement: 1 to 2 hours on September 25 between 10 AM and 2 PM.
Desired skills: Will provide in-booth training.
For questions or to volunteer, contact: Email for more information.

Learn about more SMGA volunteer opportunities.

Update on Auction Items

We have more great items coming in for our silent auction to be held concurrent with the Naturescapes photography contest awards reception:

Naturescapes Awards Reception & Silent Auction
San Marcos Activity Center
Saturday, Sept 11, 2010
5:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Last month we mentioned overnight stays at Paintbrush Ranch donated by Caron and Lewis Knight and the Courtyard New Braunfels River Village donated by Bill and Irma Adams. More from the August newsletter.

Recent donations include a brand new, still-in-the-box Canon scanner (for use with a personal computer), a $75 gift certificate to Gold Class Cinemas at the Domain in Austin, a tiffany lamp with a heavy brass base, beaded necklaces, and gift certificates for local businesses. Check out the new auction items posted on our auction blog at

Save the Date: 10/9 Blanco Shoals Clean-Up

River Clean-Up Too!
Join SMGA to clean up Blanco Shoals Natural Area the morning of October 9. We're partnering with Keep San Marcos Beautiful and the San Marcos River Clean Up for one big ol' morning of river/greenspace litter pick up. Walk along the river canopied by majestic pecan trees while picking up trash that we don't want to wash further downstream. Look for more information in our October newsletter.

About Blanco Shoals
About 81 acres mostly west of the Blanco River, just below the bridge at IH35, Blanco Shoals is a unique area in our park system. It is a completely undeveloped riparian area and will remain that way except for a few trails to be built in the future. It contains high bank bluffs and shoals, tall cottonwoods and sycamores, gigantic pecans, and mesquite. Anaqua (a na’ kuh way) trees cling to the riverbanks. Note: Enjoy a pleasant stroll along the Blanco but do not cross any fences, as it will put you on private property.

The property was donated in 2002 by the Holt family in exchange for some land-use changes on the remaining portions of the property. The City of San Marcos, Alan Holt, and SMGA worked together to come up with a Planned Development District (PDD) for the property, which included multi-family and commercial use and greenspace. The 81 donated acres are in the Blanco River floodplain, and an additional 16 acres are planned for acquisition pending funding. The Holts asked that the area be left essentially natural.

Previous articles about Blanco Shoals:

Local Issues: Shooting Range, Paso Robles, Windemere

Here is a summary of local issues adapted from information provided by the San Marcos River Foundation, SMGA board members Sherwood Bishop and Maggie Hutchins, and San Marcos Local News.

Shooting Range:
  • The proposed 564-acre shooting range/park east of San Marcos would include TPWD hunter headquarters; a Ducks Unlimited educational trail, facility and 40-acre wetlands tank; and a river park. One end of the roughly 1/2 by 2 mile strip would be river frontage, and the other end fronts on 621 almost at Scull R. 
  • The 25-acre shooting range would be near the middle where a hill provides a natural berm to dampen sound and bullets. Additional berms would contain bullet lead and noise. Much of the shooting would be under a type of baffled cover to contain noise and ricocheting bullets.
  • The Texas Shooting Sports Complex has been working with the county for the last two years to plan this project and will use EPA standards for design and lead clean up. They hope to capture most of the tank water from rainfall.
  • The group wants the county to use parks bond funds that are left to buy the land followed by a long term lease to operate the range. They will return a portion of their user fees to the county; park access will be free. They say  their use as a range, wetland, and hunter education facility will disturb less land than development would, plus there will be a river frontage park for public picnicking and camping.
  • At a neighborhood meeting, attendees expressed concerned about a river park without law enforcement in an area that is already overrun with drunks, people threatening land owners, and drifts of plastic bottles and other trash piling up at various sites.
  • Neighbors also brought up the concerns about lead washing into the river, noise pollution that would devalue their property, ricocheting bullets, disturbing wildlife, and noise from large events. Some did not want to spend parks bond money on land for the shooting range.
To comment, contact Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe, 393-2243, Other commissioner e-mail addresses.

Paso Robles
  • Gated development on 1,338 acres south of McCarty Lane and west of Hunter Rd with about 4,500 planned dwelling units, an 18-hole golf course, hike and bike trails, and commercial development along Hunter near Centerpoint Rd. 
    • After public outcry, Loop 110's future section from IH35 west to RR12 was removed from the city's transportation plan after it was shifted from its location through the middle of Paso Robles to McCarty Lane.
      • The developer, Carma, has offered parkland dedication of 7+ acres on the headwaters of Willow Springs Creek and 10+ acres on the headwaters of Cottonwood Creek, and a couple of other small "trailhead" parks totaling 37.5 acres in parkland dedication, 18 acres of which are located in the 100-year flood plain. These allocations do not meet the minimum required by the Land Development Code. Carma has also committed to about 380 acres of permanent conservation easements on their golf course and other open space land.
      • Carma plans to locate the golf course over the aquifer recharge zone and water with reclaimed water, raising a concern that pharmaceuticals and other chemicals that can not be removed during the reclamation process will enter the aquifer and pollute wells in the area that draw water directly from the aquifer, including homeowner, commercial, city, and federal wells. The latter is located at the San Marcos National Fish Hatchery, which maintains a refugium for four federally-endangered and two threatened species on McCarty & IH35. Testing for and/or preventing pollution from building up in the aquifer over time as a result of the water cycle would be an expensive proposition for the city and could be required by federal regulators.
      • The San Marcos Parks Advisory Board unanimously followed the Parks and Community Services staff recommendation to accept the parks plan Tuesday night after the developer agreed to pledge up to $300,000 to help acquire 289 acres around Purgatory Creek. The property would add to the reserve and help it grow into a regional park.
      • The city council approved annexation of the Paso Robles acreage at a public hearing on August 23. Future council meetings will address the development agreement and TIRZ.
      • Windemere, the development on Sink Creek above Spring Lake, has withdrawn its application for a variance to allow over 75 units with only one exit/entrance road. We hear they plan to re-apply at a future date for a development of 75 or fewer units, so they will not have to ask for a variance.
          To comment email the mayor and council members at and P&Z commissioners at at

          Household Hazardous Waste - Thanks Green Guy!

          By now you've probably heard about household hazardous waste (HHW) disposal every Tuesday and Friday at the City of San Marcos Traffic Yard, 630 E. Hopkins, 12 noon to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays ( - San Marcos Daily Record).

          Here's some information from Kyle Hahn of Green Guy Recycling that you may not have seen:
          Two Green Guy employees have been running the facility and catching up on old material for about a month now. We've saved the city hundreds in disposal fees in various ways. We are mixing latex paints that are free to the public and the city is using for graffiti cover-up, and we listed it on There is a re-use building for other items that are either not really hazardous (spray paint, window cleaner, etc.) or only hazardous when disposed of in bulk and just need to be used correctly and sparingly. The public is invited to come browse these items as well. We will be working to try to educate businesses in the area to sell greener products and teach them the burden this places on the city to dispose of unused material and the damage it does if disposed of improperly.
          A full-time facility has been needed for a long time and it has been a lot of hard work getting to this point. Thanks for helping spread the word.
           Thanks Green Guy for helping with this effort!

          Ringtail Ridge Update

          Ringtail Ridge fans know it has been an unusual year for this sweet little natural area. SMGA's trail crew got  a good start on repair and maintenance with a productive Bobcat Build event: Many tread repairs made, trees planted, and much more. Then the rains came, the city crews got busy in other parks, and our crew got caught flat footed while thistle and other vegetation choked numerous trail sections. Add to that a number of trees, dead from last year's drought, that fell across tread or were threatening to.

          Take heart and lace up your boots - things are looking much better for the fall season. The trails have been cleared, most but not all dead trees have been addressed, and as part of the wrap up of requirements of our grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife we have installed bike racks, 'dog mits' kiosks, and a waste can at the main entrance. The kiosk has some fresh information with more in the offing, a new map is being prepared, blue blazing is underway, signage is just around the corner, and bridge construction for the second creek crossing on the accessible trail has just begun. Wheeew! The crew has been busy!

          Thanks to our regular crew members: Sheila, Lance, Dick, Charlie, John; thanks to our park monitor and soon-to-be master naturalist Gena; thanks to Jesse, Gilbert and the city park crew for the mowing blitz; thanks to Sean, Colin, Maggie, Julie, Matt and others who have been helping along the way. It's been fun.

          Hope we see you on trail,


          Articles of Interest - August

          Narvaiz, Cranston discuss Paso Robles with residents - San Marcos Local News

          Hillert tract still sought for shooting complex - San Marcos Local News

          Edwards Aquifer Authority urging water conservation begin before region falls under mandatory orders- San Marcos Daily Record

          Interests vie a county parks bond funding draws down - San Marcos Local News

          P&Z approves Paso Robles agreement wiht TIRZ provisions 

          P&Z gives approval to Paso Robles community - San Marcos Mercury

          County to put in offer to buy Nicholson Ranch for habitat conservation - San Marcos Mercury

          Kyle, county unite to buy Jacob's Well - San Marcos Mercury

          County signs on to watershed protection pact - San Marcos Local News

          Yellow Star Thistle Invasion

          No doubt you've noticed the thistle invasion in and around San Marcos, including Ringtail Ridge and Lower Purgatory/Prospect Park. We've been out with weed eaters trying to tame that beast. Here's an alert about another invasive brought to our attention earlier this summer by Texas State graduate student Jesse Becker. Last May, Jesse sent us this report. The photo is from the U.S. Dept of Agriculture site at the first link below:

          I wanted to give you a heads up on a potentially even more devastating invasive plant that I have seen in Upper Purgatory and on the edge of the upper portion of the Spring Lake Preserve: Star Thistle (both the Yellow and Malta variety are present in the area). This is a highly invasive and drought tolerant plant. It is toxic to horses and very painful to trail users. In the past year I have seen it spread from a few isolated plants along Post and Stagecoach roads, to the fringes of open areas in town, and becoming well established in disturbed areas. At the Craddock Rd / RR12 extension site, it is now covering approximately 40% of the fields.
          This is not a plant invasion to take lightly. It is the plant equivalent of the fire ant, but worse. In many parts of California, it has gone from an occasional nuisance, to the dominant plant. If allowed to go to seed, they are viable for a decade. I have attempted to get the state and county interested in early control, to no avail. I'm attaching some links to more information and pictures of the plant. It is in the Upper Purgatory parking lot area, and is established near the power substation and new apartment construction at the upper edge of the Spring Lake Preserve off of Ramsey St. I encourage you to help increase the awareness of this issue!

          The best control method is removal and bagging, but this is only feasible at the early stages of establishment. After that, grazing (by sheep and goats, NOT horses) and chemical control work, but they are long term control methods, as the seeds are viable for years and we need to be very careful about chemical application in aquifer recharge areas. Mowing is a [possible] remedy IF TIMED PROPERLY, if not it will just spread the seeds.
          SMGA is not aware of any effort in San Marcos to control the Star Thistle, in fact, we think this alert from Jesse is going to be the first notification for most people in San Marcos. Here are the links he provided to help inform.

          Silent Auction - Cool Stuff!

          We have some great items coming in for our silent auction to be held concurrent with the Naturescapes photography contest awards reception. Save the date:

          Naturescapes Awards Reception & Silent Auction
          San Marcos Activity Center
          Saturday, Sept 11, 2010
          5:00 pm – 7:30 pm

          Of course we are still looking for auction donations! Email if you have something we can pick up. Meanwhile, feel free to bid on these great items via email. We'll let you know when our auction web site with more complete descriptions and information has been updated for the 2010 auction.
          • Several varieties of agaves large & small…$30 to $100+ values donated by Anna and Mark Boling.
          • Two-night stay at a brand new Wimberley B&B, Paintbrush Ranch donated by Lewis and Caron Knight. Check out this beautiful new venue pictured to the right.
          • A lamp and other household items donated by the McGee family.

          Wonder World Extension Offers New Trail & Access to Purgatory

          The grand opening of the new Wonder World Drive Extension provides benefits to hikers and bikers as well as motorized vehicles. An access point from the intersection of Wonder World Drive and Hunter Road on the south side includes parking, a kiosk and the trail head to a new mile-long, crushed stone and dirt pathway. The trail is suitable for bikers, hikers, and even stollers (photo below by Dick McBride). At its western terminus, the crushed-stone trail splits south and connects to the Lower Purgatory and Prospect Park trails or north to the more challenging Upper Purgatory trail.

          The July 24th opening ceremony included a fun 5-kilometer run and walk at 7 a.m. and an introductory trail hike at 11 a.m. led by San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance volunteers Todd Derkacz, Lance Jones, and Ann Jensen. Thanks to Kathy Rogers for greeting visitors to the trail head kiosk during the hike and to Matt Aiken of local bike shop The Hub. Matt organized a clean up crew of about 10 folks who cleared the main trail from the Prospect trail head past the WW extension prior to the opening. (Photo of SMGA information table at the WW Ext kiosk by Dick McBride.)

          Note that access to Upper Purgatory via Franklin Street is now closed. To reach Upper Purgatory's north entrance, take the Wonder World Extension to its future intersection with Craddock and turn south onto the dirt access road. The new Craddock Drive connection won't be completed for several more months.

          Windemere and Paso Robles Updates

          We recently forwarded you the notices summarized below about concerns with the Windemere and Paso Robles developments. (Please note that Paso Robles encompasses a portion of Willow Springs Creek, not Purgatory Creek as stated in our email.)

          The Windemere variance request at the 7/27 Planning & Zoning Commission agenda was postponed until August 24th at the request of the applicants. At the same meeting, Carma made a presentation about Paso Robles. No action was taken, but they will likely return to the P&Z on August 10th. Among recommendations from commissioners were that Paso Robles offer more dedicated parkland, particularly usable land around Cottonwood & Willow Springs Creeks, that they not use reclaimed water for watering over the recharge zone, and that they try to get some kind of recommendation from the Parks Board before returning to the P&Z.

          Thanks for the thorough report on the 7/27 P&Z meeting by San Marcos Local News:

          Windemere Development above Spring Lake Preserve
          • The Windemere developers asked for a variance to allow them to have one entrance road instead of two so they can build 200 homes instead of 75 above Spring Lake and the Preserve. 
          • The entrance road off of Lime Kiln would be on a 47'-wide piece that the developers own, in the Sink Creek floodplain, at the edge of the Spring Lake preserve. 
          • The city staff has recommended denying this request due to the danger of flooding and wildfires that would leave people trapped with only one entrance road to Lime Kiln.
          Paso Robles Development at the Headwaters of Willow Springs and Cottonwood Creeks
          • The same meeting Tuesday night had a public hearing on the 1,338-acre golf course development at McCarty and Hunter Rd, which will have up to 3,450 dwelling units. 
          • The proposed parkland dedication did not meeting the approval of the Parks Board in part because the developers are requesting to use sidewalks along major roads and floodway and flood plains to meet the parkland dedication requirement of 46.5 acres. 
          • The developer is proposing to water a golf course using treated wastewater, creating concern that pesticides and other pollution will travel into the aquifer, down creeks that feed into the San Marcos River, and into nearby wells, including two at the Refugium for endangered species at the National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center on McCarty Lane. (Water wells do not have pre-treatment facilities.)
          • Another concern is that TCEQ found geological features not included in the assessment submitted by the developers.

          Loop & Check Vision


          SMGA has been working on updating our vision for a future system of trails along San Marcos’ streams and rivers that connects local natural areas and our neighborhoods. We call this vision the Loop & Check due to the shape of the greenbelt.

          In addition to the natural areas depicted on the map, several new tracts will soon be added to the evolving greenbelt(s). These include:
          • Two 50+ acre tracts on Cottonwood Creek
          • A 34-acre park on Willow Springs Creek
          • Two tracts on Purgatory Creek (11 acres at Wonder World & Hunter and a sliver along Purgatory Creek downtown between LBJ & Guadalupe)
          • A 50+ acre park on the Blanco 
          • A small addition to the Crystal Creek Greenbelt in the Buie tract across from Franklin Square Park
          San Marcos Parks and Recreation will be adding these tracts to the Master Plan in the next few weeks. We also hear that new parkland may be added along Willow Springs Creek and Cottonwood Creek as part of the Paso Robles development.

          Your Membership Counts!

          Become a member of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance and support our vision of a greenbelt around San Marcos to connect our communities and help protect waterways and the natural heritage of this beautiful hill country area.

          Your dues allow SMGA to:
          • Work with the city, developers, and the county to find compromises that provide access to green spaces in neighborhoods, like Ringtail Ridge and Schulle Canyon, and Prospect Park.
          • Support bonds like the one that helped purchase the 250 acre Spring Lake Preserve located adjacent to Spring Lake in San Marcos.
          • Raise money to create accessible trails, maps, signage, and educational opportunities in our local parks. 
          • Get people out in the natural areas through guided hikes, Naturescapes photography contests, and trail-building.
          Don't delay...join us today!

          Photo credit: Cactus by Larry Alford, 2010

          Meet Heather Powdrill and KSMB

          Keep San Marcos Beautiful (KSMB) is one of the city’s newest initiatives that strives to reduce waste, prevent litter and beautify our wonderful city, and the program is coordinated by myself, Heather Powdrill, with the assistance of the Parks & Recreation Dept. I was hired on as a full-time employee in December 2009 after completing a year and a half internship with Parks & Rec.

          The KSMB program officially started in June 2009 and is an active member of Keep Texas Beautiful. Our main focus areas are litter prevention, waste reduction and beautification. Through presentations, demonstrations, Nature Center kids camps, and schools, KSMB programs teach environmentally conscious practices and lifestyles.

          KSMB also coordinates the Adopt-a-Spot program through which groups and businesses adopt a public spot within the city to help clean and beautify at least four times each year. KSMB has 12 groups that have adopted 11 parks or greenspaces totaling 309 acres of adopted parkland. Other efforts include graffiti cleanups and the San Marcos River Cleanup. The upcoming fall river cleanup will be held Saturday, October 9, 2010.

          KSMB will also be coordinating our 1st annual Keep San Marcos Beautiful Art and Eco Fest set to be held Saturday, September 25th on the Square in Downtown San Marcos. The event will begin with the Sculpture Garden Grand Opening at 10:00AM then the event downtown will kick off at 11:00AM and end at 11:00PM. The day will include art and eco vendors from around the area, food vendors, a fun and interactive kids area, onstage performances throughout the day, and a concert to end the night. KSMB is proud to join efforts with the Arts Commission and other groups throughout the city to bring such a diverse cultural and ecological event to our community.

          As you can see, KSMB is working hard to serve and educate our citizens and visitors on how to become the most beautiful city in the state. Coordinating and starting a new program has been a challenge, but one I am grateful to have experienced. After the first year of KSMB, the program received the Gold Star Affiliate status with Keep Texas Beautiful. This was an amazing honor to receive this status in our first year.

          Heather Powdrill
          Community Beautification Coordinator
          City of San Marcos
          Parks and Recreation

          Hikers, Bikers, and Dogs in Spring Lake Preserve?

          The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has asked the city to provide information about how many hikers, bikers, and dogs will be using Spring Lake Preserve. Melani Howard, San Marcos' watershed protection manager, would like to gather observational data on the users of Upper and Lower Purgatory Creek, including Prospect Park, to help with the Spring Lake Preserve estimate. If you are a frequent user of the Purgatory Greenspace, please email your observational “guesses” to Melani at

          Articles of Interest - July

          Wonderous Project for San Marcos - KUT News (click the sound icon below the title and listen for interviews with locals Craig Jensen and Terry McCabe!)

          The End of the Hill Country - Texas Observer

          Good news concerning birds and the Texas coast - San Marcos Mercury

          City plans fanfare for awaited WonderWorld extension opening - San Marcos Mercury

          A brief history of the Wonder World Drive extension - San Marcos Mercury

          County, city receive citation for joint parks - San Marcos Local News

          San Marcos to consider gray water ordinance - Austin-American Statesman

          Here's an update on an issue that affects Central TX:
          A Heritage Endangered - Clear View Alliance