Thursday, 12/1 Public Workshop: Hays County Transportation Plan

Please plan to attend and express your support for a walkable, bikable community!
Hays County has begun the process for creating a countywide transportation plan. Throughout this process, the County is seeking participation and input from community members. We are holding a public workshop on December 1, 2011, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the San Marcos Activity Center (501 E. Hopkins). Please see the attached flyer for meeting details.

Public involvement is a large part of this planning process and we would like to see as many Hays County residents at this meeting as possible. Please forward the flyer to any members of your community that you think may be interested in the process.

The planning team will send project updates and notices of meetings, surveys, and other ways to participate throughout the planning process. To sign up to receive the updates directly, please email, with HCTP Email Update in the subject line.

Thank you for your time and we look forward to hearing from you!
For more information:
Cathy Howell, (512) 533-9100 ext. 10,

Sessom Creek - Proposed Development, Citizen Input Meetings 12/5, 7

Thus far the development project proposed by Carter Morris and Darren Casey has been known as the North Campus project. By any name it is a large endeavor that would add over 1,000 multifamily beds, approximately 20,000 square feet of retail and close Loquat Street. The site is located just east of the municipal water tank where Comanche Street terminates into Sessom and would continue downhill facing Sessom Drive. Its new name is Sessom Creek Community.

The $63M proposal was submitted as a planned development district (PDD), which would stand as an agreement between the city and anyone who owns the land. Details about the project are specified in the agreement, and the Morris/Casey team has included a number of adjustments to the minimum building requirements to do a better job of protecting Sessom Creek, expanding the so-called Sessom Greenspace and reducing the impact on the neighborhood. The developers and others argue that the project is ideally located based on principles of new urbanism or smart growth.

At the second public hearing, held during the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last week, more than 30 neighbors showed up to express their rejection of the plan. While some admitted that the renderings of the buildings look fantastic, they feel that the development will in the end erode the quality of life and value of their neighborhood and significantly increase traffic. Those living very close to the project will also have the view of the structures themselves, light and sound penetrating the buffer of the greenspace.

Representatives of the SMGA and the SM River Foundation were invited to a meeting with the developers before the project went to the commissioners. We were asked for ideas on how the project could be improved. Many suggestions were offered and many ideas accepted. The design team plans to maximize watershed control elements and dedicate slightly more parkland than is required under current development codes. The land would help buffer and increase the acres owned by the public in the area of the greenspace.
SMGA has not endorsed the project but did speak out to give credit to the development team for doing a good job of hearing concerns and improving the project. Like many, we would prefer to see the natural cover of Sessom Creek, what little remains, left alone. But it has to be weighed against what the current or future owners have the right to do with their property and the lack of commitment by the community to purchase and hold the property as natural area.

As of this edition, there are two meetings scheduled for citizens to voice their concerns to the city staff and development team. The first meeting will be at the Dunbar Center between 5:30 - 7:30 on Monday, December 5, and the other on Wednesday, December 7th between 5:30 - 7:30 at the SM Recreation Hall next to the Lions tube rental facility in City Park accessed off Charles Austin Drive.

by Todd Derkacz, SMGA President

Saturday 12/3 Bird Hike with Stephen Ramirez at Blanco Shoals

December 3rd: Blanco Shoals (Map: ) Meet at 7:30, park in the dirt round-about at the end of the road. This is definitely one of my favorite areas to explore in San Marcos, its a really large property, or it seems that way, because you can walk to every corner of it. There are always great birds so I invite you to come out and see what we can find. Even without the birds this is just a great place to be to enjoy being outside!
Email Stephen at to be added to his bird hike email list. 

Here's an excerpt from Stephen's blog:

Spotted Towhee by Stephen Ramirez
November’s Monthly Bird Walk
...Gathering just after sunrise (I bet my guests were glad it was Saturday, not Sunday), the weather was still quite chilly, and there was also the conveniently placed “Bird walking trail” sign at the parking lot but has always seemed somewhat out of place until now. Overall it was mostly quite around the trails, I was listening for birds and could hear a very faint cry far away. I hinted that there were some Towhee’s about and that maybe we could find them. Sure enough, further down the trail we ran into the most exciting bird of the day, we were actually surrounded by 1 singing and 2 calling Spotted Towhees, and also witnessed them interacting with each other. It may have been a scandalous love triangle but it was hard to tell. More

Natural Area Monitoring

If you visit the SMGA Volunteer blog, you may have noticed an on-line monitor report form. This is the best way to notify SMGA and Parks and Recreation to minor issues or concerns with the natural areas. Check it out and fill it in at

SMGA Supports Acquisition of 107 Acres for Purgatory Creek Natural Area

On November 22, the Hays County Commissioners approved an amendment to an inter-local agreement between the county and the City of San Marcos that takes us one step closer to adding 107 acres to Upper Purgatory Creek Natural Area. SMGA will continue to share our support of the expansion with city and county officials, and we thank the Trust for Public Land for their time and investment in this project.

The next step is for the San Marcos City Council to approve the acquisition of the additional acres. Please email to express your support for the Purgatory Creek Natural Area expansion. We expect the item to be on an agenda before the end of the year. And of course, we are thrilled to have this beautiful natural area  expand to conserve additional environmentally sensitive land and provide more recreational opportunities for San Marcos!

Previous article on this topic:
The acquisition of additional acres to Purgatory Creek Natural Area (PCNA)  has been a challenging project. We are happy to report that there is light at the end of the tunnel. At this time the Trust for Public Land continues to work on the acquisition of the 289 acres to take place in two phases – the first 106 acres could be conveyed to the city by the end of January 2012. (Click the link above to read more.)

Golf Course Expansion Omitted from Texas State Master Plan

SMGA recently joined with other community organizations to voice concerns for the proposed Spring Lake Golf Course expansion that was part of the Texas State Master Plan. The expansion included two new holes and a golf pro shop, requiring a significant change to the land surrounding the entrance to Spring Lake Preserve.

On October 26th, Texas State announced that this portion of the Master Plan will be omitted. Originally, TxDOT’s proposed railroad overpass on Aquarena Springs Drive would have interfered with the existing golf course design, which provoked the need to expand the golf course toward Spring Lake Preserve. However, a new overpass design by TxDOT shows that the roadway will not impact the golf course as previously planned, canceling the need for the change. Texas State also announced that plans for new pro shop have been “deferred pending further study.”

The new overpass design will also save 118 parking spaces from being removed from the Strahan Coliseum lot.

by Leah Gibson, SMGA Board Member

Sink Creek Wastewater Line Won’t Traverse Spring Lake Natural Area

Peaceful Pond by Herb Smith (at Spring Lake Natural Area)
SMGA was very pleased to hear that the wastewater line will no longer go through Spring Lake Natural Area. We thank everyone for contacting city staff and council to express concern over this wastewater line. Here is our letter to the mayor, council, and city staff in response to the recent news that the city is evaluating making improvements to Sessom downstream lines instead of building the Sink Creek Interceptor Phase II project:
Thank you for the time and energy that you invested in the Sink Creek Wastewater Interceptor Line, Phase Two project. The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance appreciates your forethought to step back and consider alternative routes, and welcome the results of the peer review presented at the council meeting on November 15. The proposed alternate route will save money, improve existing infrastructure, protect water quality, and preserve the Spring Lake Natural Area. We look forward to continuing to work with the City to protect San Marcos's natural areas and quality of life for this and future generations.
Maggie Hutchins
San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance
And here is an email from city engineer Jennifer Shell with details behind the change in plans:
At the November 15 City Council meeting, City staff presented the findings of a Peer Review of the Sink Creek Phase II Wastewater Interceptor Project. The study was performed by K. Friese and Associates of Austin, Texas. The proposed project was evaluated for alignment, line size, and flow information and whether the interceptor would provide the capacity needed in the N. LBJ Drive/ Rogers Ridge area currently served by the Sessom Creek Sewer Shed.

The study concluded that:
1. If the Sink Creek Interceptor was built, the City would still need to make improvements to the Sessom Creek Sewer Shed existing infrastructure.
2. The City could realize significant cost savings and gain the capacity needed by making improvements to Sessom downstream lines instead of building the Sink Creek Interceptor Phase II project.
The City is now moving forward with an analysis of the Sessom Creek downstream lines to establish if bypass lines could be built to move the existing lines away from the San Marcos River and to what size the existing lines should be increased. A final alignment will be complete in December, and design will begin in January, 2012.  We expect to incorporate portions of the construction into other projects.  For example, the N LBJ Reconstruction Project could include a new wastewater line and the Downtown Redevelopment Project could include a new wastewater line. All construction should be complete by 2014.
If you have additional questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact us at the Engineering and CIP Department by phone at 393-8130 or email
We greatly appreciate your input and patience through this process.
Thank you,
Jennifer Shell, P.E.
City Engineer
by Maggie Hutchins-Wagner, SMGA Board Member

The Importance of Water - Blanco Shoals Natural Area

If you are ever in doubt about the importance water makes to our lives, visit the Blanco Shoals natural area on River Ridge Parkway east of I-35. The 81-acre greenspace was set aside by the city and the landowner in consideration of a re-zoning of adjacent property. The strip of land borders the Blanco River and is bounded by cypress, cottonwood and sycamore trees many in fall colors.
Blanco River

Recent rainfalls of more than 3 inches in November makes for a lush greenery. The river is running and not dry. It was so attractive that it captured an artist's interest in the majestic pecan trees in the moist, fertile riparian soils.
Golden fronted woodpecker

The natural area is a great destination for bird watching while the boardwalk at Spring Lake is temporarily closed. Birds abound in the rich riverbanks as woodpeckers are both heard and seen. Also heard circling overhead announcing his presence was a red-shouldered hawk. The usual mockingbirds, chicadees and sparrows are also easily seen and heard.

This is an undeveloped natural area with no marked trails, map or trash and doggie bag dispenser. Until it is, visitors are asked to leave the area as found. The rancher's jeep track, although out in the open field, makes for a good path to transverse one end to the other. Travel  next to the river is hampered by mud, cliffs and flora.

Best parking is at the curb before reaching either of the apartments. The TX State tram makes use of the turning radius of the cul-de-sac during university sessions.

by Lance Jones, SMGA Stewardship Committee

SMGA and Mayor Guerrero at Ringtail Ridge

Maggie finds geocache. Photo by Lance Jones, SMGA
SMGA board member Maggie Hutchins and Mayor Daniel Guerrero led a hike at Ringtail Ridge Natural Area November 13th. The history of the 45-acre greenspace and the many users of the park were discussed. The small group of 7 hiked both Tex's Trail and the Ridge Loop. Drought damage was noted as several hackberry trees fell victim and provided a new habitat for small animals. The soapberry trees were a brilliant yellow, and we learned about cochineal and its many uses. Maggie discovered a geocache, and the contents of the treasure trove were examined and carefully returned to their hiding place. The hike lasted just over an hour on a sunny, Sunday afternoon. 

-by Lance Jones, SMGA Stewardship Committee

SMGA is taking a bit of a winter break from guided hikes, but we will return in Spring 2012.

LWV Briefing Paper on Water Issues: Should Water Be a Commodity?

From Annalisa Peace of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance:
As promised, I have uploaded the League of Women Voters "Should Water Be a Commodity?" report on our website. If the link doesn't work, you can find the report on our website in the "Library" under "Resources for Member Groups"... the LWV report is one of the best summations of Texas water issues that I have seen. It is only 8 pages - and can serve as the basis of future discussions that we all need to have before the 83rd Legislative session.

You Asked for ‘Em…

You’ve been asking and we’ve responded. Look for SMGA T-shirts for sale at our upcoming FUNdraiser. Thanks to Jo Ellen Korthals and Charlotte Wattigny for their help with graphic design and message. The shirts are light green with the Enjoy Nature…your way design shown here in brown on the back and the SMGA logo on the front. Sizes available are men’s S, M, L, XL, and XXL. $12 /each. Email for information on how to purchase.

Support SMGA: FUNdRaiser Saturday 11/12

On Saturday, November 12th, 2011, the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance will be hosting a Harvest Moon FUNdraiser! Starting at moonrise (7 pm) under the Learning Tree in Purgatory Creek Natural Area-Prospect Park, we will have food and activities for your enjoyment.

Participate in an astronomy hike guided by Texas State astronomy professor Russell L Doescher starting at 7:30PM. Or just hang out at the Learning Tree and enjoy sodas, chips, baked goods and sausage wraps for sale while they last.

Two days away from full, the moon will cast light on a live bluegrass performance from a combination of the Crystal Creek Boys & the Bluegrass Outfit, starting at 8:30PM. You will be able to look through a telescope to view planetary bodies up close, enter a raffle to win prizes, and take home a new SMGA T-shirt! Bring the kids, and they can participate in an art project.

This event raises funds to benefit the good work of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance. Our mission is to create and conserve an interconnected system of parks and natural areas for our community and future generations. SMGA is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that works to preserve greenspace in our growing city and make it accessible to the city’s residents. Come out and support our many projects, including trail building and maintenance, installing trail signage and kiosk displays, invasive plant removal, and conservation advocacy, to name just a few! 

• Cash or checks
• Beverage of choice (no glass!)
• Flashlight and/or other no-flame light source
• Folding chair
• Your pup might be happier at home, but if you bring her along, remember that leashes are required in city parks. Also please bring bags and use your flashlight to pick up her waste.

Parking: Plan to park along neighborhood streets (e.g., Prospect, Columbia, and Progress Streets) and avoid blocking driveways

Directions: 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 the street near the kiosk. Parking is limited, so consider carpooling, walking, or biking; a bike rack is available. Follow the lighted trail that winds through the cedar break, and then emerges into the field. From there you will find the fun under the Learning Tree and by the large compass.

View other SMGA and community events in our calendar

Saturday Work Day - 11/5

November 5 is the date of our  our second Saturday trail work day. We shall meet at the parking lot of Upper Purgatory at 9 AM and work until noon. We are working on a new trail which leads to the Grotto. The work is mainly clearing tread and moving rocks, and we should finish the trail around the Grotto on Saturday.

No previous experience is necessary. Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and close toed shoes, and bring some water. SMGA will provide the tools. All of us provide the fun and camaraderie.

Directions: To reach the  UPPER Purgatory parking lot follow Craddock across Wonder World Drive, go one block to the end of Craddock and turn right on the calcite road for about a quarter mile.

View other SMGA and community events in our calendar

Ringtail Ridge Hike with Mayor Guerrero and SMGA

Sunday, November 13, 2-4pm

Join SMGA and San Marcos' Mayor Daniel Guerrero on a hike of Ringtail Ridge Sunday, November 13 from 2-4 pm. We will discuss Ringtail Ridge's unique history, recreational opportunities, and its location within the Loop & Check vision. Whether you have explored Ringtail many times and would like to share your enthusiasm for the area, or it's your first time, please join us in welcoming Mayor Guerrero to Ringtail Ridge. Bring water and wear closed-toe shoes.

Directions: Take Old Ranch Road 12 (Moore St.) toward Wimberley about 1/10th mile past Craddock Ave. Turn right onto dirt road between Dakota Ranch Apartments and Crestwood Center (there's a wooden sign welcoming you to Ringtail Ridge). Follow road until you reach the big oak and trailhead behind the apartments. There is plenty of parking.

View other SMGA and community events in our calendar.

Grotto Trail Almost Complete at Upper Purgatory

Ever wonder what's down below the overlook on Dante's Trail?  Down some 80 feet?

The Thursday morning trail crew has been busy constructing a trail that leads to a geologic wonder at the base of the cliff. Several master naturalists were accompanied on October 26 by retired geologist Wayne Orlowski, who talked about the limestone formations, fractures and rock layers that compose the cliff.
Edwards limestone and fractured rock layer above. Note poison ivy.

The formation of the grotto or excavation of the rock and soil leads to several explanations. Was it formed by erosion and the power of Purgatory Creek following heavy rainfalls? Has the creek selectively erroded the grotto because the rock is more fractured at this location? Why is the rock more fractured at the grotto. Was it created over geologic time as part of the San Marcos Arch and fractures caused by earthquakes associated with movement on faults along the Balcones Fault Zone? Was the rock fractured and the grotto created and localized in this spot as a result of compaction drape over a carbonate mound or a reef that lies beneath the grotto location? Is there another explanation or a combination of causes?
Orlowski (red shirt) explains geology of the grotto 10/26/11

The existence of the grotto leads to a better understanding of the ground we tread and the importance of safeguarding the fragile land that captures rainwater for later use. The distance from the Craddock Street trailhead to the Grotto is roughly 2 miles.  Common sense precautions are advised when visiting the landmark. Stay on the trail to prevent erosion, no shortcuts. Travel with a partner and no climbing the rock face.

By Lance Jones

What's in a Map?

Derkacz & Scrobanek plot waypoints, SLP, 9/9/11
Trail maps. Simple. Walk the trail with a GPS device and transfer to a computer program. Hit PRINT or these days, UPLOAD. And viola! You've got a trail map.

Not so fast.

What do you name the trail? Which landmarks get used (and which don't). What other important information goes into making a good, useable trail map? What about consistency between trail maps.

First you need an expert. SMGA is fortunate to have the services of Kenny Skrobanek, a recent graduate from a Texas State graduate program in geography. He's a runner, unicycle football player and member of the San Marcos community. His full-time job is with the city's GIS department.

Then you need to form a committee to make all those decisions. With a strong core of volunteers and leaders Todd Derckaz, Charlie McNeil, Melani Howard, Ann Jensen, Lance Jones, and others meet with Kenny and discuss the look and function of each of the maps.

Available online and at no charge are maps from Schulle Canyon, Ringtail Ridge and this month, Spring Lake Preserve.

A 3-part map of the Purgatory Creek trails should be available before the end of the year. Eight different trails compose the Purgatory Creek Natural Area. Dante's Trail alone is the longest at more than 4 miles in length. The maps denoting the trails highlight the opportunities for residents and visitors alike to get outdoors, get some exercise (with or without Fido), and just clear the head. The other important benefit to the maps is the delineation of the creeks that flow through the greenbelt loop and the reason we want to preserve and safeguard this resource.

By Lance Jones

SMGA Supports Prop 8

Proposition 8, found on every Texas ballot this November, is very much related to our mission and we hope you will vote to approve it. This is one more tool that can be used by owners of undeveloped land to use land management practices aimed at protecting water resources. The two similar options currently available for undeveloped land are known as the agriculture or the wildlife management exemption. These exemptions allow owners to avoid high property tax rates if they meet standards of land use practices. This enables open space to remain open, producing value for the people of Texas. Land owners faced with enormous tax burdens might otherwise be forced to sell out. The cost of food and natural resource protection for the rest of us would increase. Protecting our water resources is clearly a value dear to Texans and that is what proposition 8 would allow. It is not expected to exempt lands that would not qualify for exemption under one of the other options so it will not cause our taxes to increase. It will mean that those lands in watersheds above sensitive water resources can be managed for maximum water quantity and quality and we believe San Marcos and every other Texan could certainly benefit from this kind of management. Please vote in favor of proposition 8. You can learn more by checking out the website Ballot Pedia at,_Proposition_8_%282011%29.