Purgatory Creek Natural Area Hike, May 28 at 8 am

Here is an update to our May Events For Your Calendar post

5/28 Hike at Purgatory Creek Natural Area, 8-10 am (NEW TIME)
Maggie Hutchins and volunteer Mike Baugh will lead hikers from one end of Purgatory Creek Natural Area to the other, a total of 5-6 miles. Meet at the Hunter Road entrance and we'll leave some cars there and rideshare to the upper Purgatory entrance near WonderWorld and Craddock, where the hike will begin. (Those who left cars at the Hunter Rd. entrance will return drivers to the upper entrance.) As always, wear long pants, closed toe shoes, sunscreen, and bring a water bottle. Hats and camera recommended.

GEAA: Tree Clearcutting Bill Still Alive

According to Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance on 5/18, Sen. Troy Fraser amended HB 1665 (a bill about notification requirements regarding certain land use regulations in an area near military facilities in San Angelo, Texas) to include failed HB 1388/SB 732 - the dreaded tree clearcutting bills. In short, Fraser's amendment would apply to all of Texas and disallows regulation by municipalities of planting, clearing, or harvesting trees or vegetation in the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) of a municipality.

If this bill allows clear-cutting with bulldozers, it could have devastating consequences for water quality in creeks, rivers and aquifer.

GEAA asks that you contact your Texas representatives and senators today to request that they oppose Sen. Fraser's amendment to HB 1665. Please contact Annalisa Peace, GEAA Executive Director, 210-320-6294 with questions http://www.aquiferalliance.org/.

Update on Violet Crown Trail

Click to enlarge map
One of SMGA's goals is to link to the regional Violet Crown Trail, formerly known as the walk-for-a-day trail, currently planned from Zilker Park in Austin to Kyle (west of IH35 and north of 150). We'd like to see that trail extend all they way to San Marcos, possibly all the way to the San Marcos River parks!

Here is an update from the Hill Country Conservancy on the Austin-Kyle trail, including completion of a master plan, securing easements from private property owners, and formation of a 5-person trail corp.

Painted Buntings at Ringtail Ridge: Who Knew?

Painted Bunting by Pvelte, Wikimedia Commons, 2005, OK
An SMGA-sponsored birding hike on May 14th at Ringtail Ridge Natural Area led to the discovery of painted buntings residing in the Ridge Loop section of natural area. Binoculars in hand, the bird's distinctive call was pinpointed to a female painted bunting. Then another. Finally a colorful male was located at the crown of a live oak. 

A dozen hikers led by master naturalist Bonnie Tull sighted a birds that were also identified in a survey conducted October 2008 in which 25 different birds were seen or heard. The May 14 expedition netted numerous finches flitting on the thistles, blue jays in the woods, and wrens in among the cactii. The usual mockingbirds, titmouse, cardinals and chickadees were also identified. 
Photo by Dick McBride

Bonnie shared ways to encourage a diversity of birds, including bluebirds, and capitalize on bird watching opportunities in local landscapes. This information will be put to good use by SMGA's stewardship committee.

- Lance Jones

Sink Creek Interceptor Hearing Rescheduled for June 21

SMGA will continue to keep you up-to-date on this project. Please take the time to contact the Mayor and City Council at mayor_council_info@sanmarcostx.gov with your concerns before this issue comes up on the council agenda on June 21. A recent presentation to the community on the proposed wastewater line is available at http://www.sanmarcostx.gov/departments/CIP/docs/SinkCreekPh2_18april11.pdf
And read our previous post at http://smgreenbelt.blogspot.com/2011/05/wastewater-line-through-spring-lake.html

City of San Marcos
630 E. Hopkins
San Marcos, Texas 78666

May 16, 2011

For Immediate Release

Sink Creek Interceptor Hearing Rescheduled for June 21

A public hearing on the Sink Creek Phase 2 wastewater interceptor project has been rescheduled from May 17 to the June 21, 2011 City Council meeting.

The new date will allow the City of San Marcos to comply with Texas  Parks and Wildlife Code Section 26.002 regarding the publication of notice of the hearing.

The Sink Creek project will install a new 21- inch sanitary sewer main  from the intersection of N. LBJ Drive and Oakridge along and across Sink Creek to Lime Kiln Road. The new interceptor will relieve wastewater capacity issues and overflows downstream of the N LBJ lift station. Two aging lift stations in the area will also be replaced.

City engineers and the design consultants, Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam,  Inc., held a public meeting on the project April 18 at the Activity Center. Information presented at that meeting is available on the City's Capital Improvements webpage  at http://www.sanmarcostx.gov/departments/CIP/SinkCreekPhaseIIDocList.html

The Sink Creek wastewater interceptor was identified as a recommended improvement project in the City's 1995 and 2005 Wastewater Master Plans. Project cost is estimated at $3.5 million.
Construction is slated to begin in the fall of 2011, with completion in the fall of 2012.

For more information on this project, please call the City of San Marcos Capital Improvements Department at 512.393.8130.

Our Vision Needs Your Voice by May 11th - EXTENDED TO MAY 14th

SMGA needs your help. We want to ensure that the voices of those in San Marcos, and especially greenbelt supporters, are reflected in the Hays County Parks Master Plan. Connectivity, water quality, and conserving publicly accessible natural areas for recreation benefits all citizens of Hays County.

I Love To Fish by Kenneth Jones
2010 Naturescapes Contest

Please pass the word: fill out the survey - support connectivity along creeks for flood and natural resources protection and connecting the San Marcos river parks to the Walk for A Day Trail along the Blanco River. San Marcos has shown that protecting natural areas while allowing for recreation works. Let's make sure that our vision is included and expanded in the Hays County Master Plan. We urge you to complete the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HaysCountyParks. It will take approximately five minutes to complete. Then forward the link to your fellow Hays county friends, family, and neighbors. The deadline has been extended to Saturday, May 14. Read more about our vision in our post earlier this month. For more information on the master plan, or if the link to the survey does not work, visit http://www.co.hays.tx.us/index.php/living-and-visiting/parks-department/parks-master-plan/.

Hot Dry Weather Means Fire Danger

Signs like these are coming soon to a natural area near you. We are always amazed to see evidence of fires in our local natural areas. Fires even in a hibachi or barbecue or on the ground are prohibited at any time in all local natural areas. But especially at this time of year, please, please use common sense and do not light a fire in outdoor spaces. It's just not worth risking human or animal habitat. And, don't forget that Hays County is under a burn ban.

Need a Gift?

Remember that Cypress Sun Jewelry  and Lost Marbles Jewelry will donate a portion of their proceeds to SMGA. Check out their jewelry at the links above. And remember that anything you purchase comes back to benefit our local natural areas.

Amy Friend of Cypress Sun shared a great page about why she has chosen to donate to SMGA. Check it out at  http://cypresssunjewelry.com/your-cypress-sun-jewelry-purchase-makes-a-difference/

Vote May 14th: SMCISD Districts 1 & 3, Hays Trinity Groundwater District

Thanks to Dianne Wassenich for reminding us of the election on the 14th if you vote in SMCISD Districts 1 and 3 or live in the Hays Trinity Groundwater District. Check out the League of Women Voters Guide at http://lwvtexas.org/PDFs/San_Marcos_Voters_Guide_May_2011.pdf, which includes instructions for determining your district on your voter registration card or calling the county elections office. Please take time to find out if you live in the Hays Trinity Groundwater District by looking on your voter registration card or calling the county if you live anywhere near Wimberley, Woodcreek, or Dripping Springs. Groundwater district elections are vital to the future of our springs and rivers in our county, and this vote in particular will have long and major consequences to this county's water resources.

7th Annual Naturescapes Photo Contest

While SMGA's board opted to focus on other priorities this year, we are thrilled that two great groups are carrying on with the Naturescapes Photo Contest. Many thanks to the Hill Country Photography Club and The Hays County Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists for sponsoring this year's contest. Read all about it below and then dust off your cameras and enjoy a local greenspace.

Grab your camera and head outdoors! Seeking Photographers of ALL ages for 7th Annual Naturescapes Photo Contest.

Do you see beauty or humor in your natural surroundings, and wish you had captured it to share with your friends or family? Well, now is your chance to do just that. The 7th Annual Naturescapes Photography Contest is looking for your beautiful, inspiring, or even humorous images to showcase the local natural beauty of Hays County.
Goals of the contest and exhibition include increasing public awareness of the importance of protecting our natural world, and giving photographers a chance to capture, share, and receive recognition for beautiful and inspiring images.

Local and visiting photographers of all levels of experience are encouraged to participate. For the first time, this year’s contest will include a youth category, with a cash prize presented for the Best Youth image. A second special award added this year is for Best Natural Habitat image.

May 1st is the kickoff date for this year’s Naturescapes Photo Contest, and all entries must be received by July 11, 2011. Amanda Smith, of A Smith Gallery in Johnson City, will jury the submitted entries, and you will be notified during the week of July 25th if your image or images have been selected to be included in the exhibition.
A reception for all participants and the community is set for Saturday, September 10, from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. at the San Marcos Activity Center. The exhibit will be on display at the Walker’s Gallery in the Activity Center from September 10 - November 4.

Check this website for complete information for this year’s contest. Some information has changed from previous years, so please read it carefully. http:/hcphotoclub.org/naturescapes.html

Support Your Local Greenbelt: County Needs Input by 5/11

Have you heard of the Violet Crown trail (formerly the Walk for Day trail) that will connect downtown Austin to Kyle? SMGA envisions connecting to that trail from downtown San Marcos northward. By utilizing the SMGA Loop & Check vision map and continuing further north along the Blanco River (past Blanco Shoals and Five Mile Dam), San Marcos could link to the Violet Crown trail. The vision entails existing natural areas and parks, expanding the San Marcos greenbelt trail system, and protecting riparian areas along the Blanco River. It is also a connection of people, gathering places, playing fields, river access, neighbors, and communities. A robust greenbelt system will make us the envy of neighboring communities, help sustain our economic vitality, and is a wonderful way to showcase the beauty of Hays County.

Sound good? How can you help? Here's how:

Hays County is taking citizen input regarding the Hays County Master Plan. Complete the county survey here. The survey will be open until May 11.


Send an email to jeff.hauff@co.hays.tx.us and/or the county judge and/or your commissioner.(bert.cobb@co.hays.tx.us, debbiei@co.hays.tx.us, mark.jones@co.hays.tx.us, will.conley@co.hays.tx.us, ray.whisenant@co.hays.tx.us).


Contact Jeff Hauff, the county grant administrator who works closely with the contractor preparing the master plan: jeff.hauff@co.hays.tx.us, 512.393.2209

Your email might say something like this:
I am writing in support of connecting the San Marcos River parks to the Violet Crown/Walk for a Day Trail along a route from downtown San Marcos along the San Marcos River to its confluence with the Blanco River, then north along the Blanco River, past Five Mile Dam, to just south of 150. I support using creekways to protect our water and other natural resources, provide hike and bike avenues that connect neighborhoods to parks and communities, and offer passive recreation that will enhance the county's economy while improving the quality of our lives. Please include this connection in the Hays County Parks Master Plan.
If you would like to know more about the previous plan or simply understand more about the master plan process visit http://www.co.hays.tx.us/index.php/living-and-visiting/parks-department/parks-master-plan/.

May Events for Your Calendar

5/11 Last Day to Support Your Local Greenbelt
Read more here.

5/14 Birding Hike at Ringtail Ridge, 9-11 a.m.
While many of the migratory birds have already passed through Central Texas, this month's hike is in observance of International Birding Migration Day. Bonnie Tull, this year's birding hike leader, said, "I consider myself a backyard birder primarily with some 20 years of birding as a hobby. I can help identify most birds by sight and some by sound, and I can talk about their habits." Bring your binoculars and wear long pants, closed toe shoes, sunscreen, and bring a water bottle. Hats and camera recommended.
5/28 Hike at Purgatory Creek Natural Area, 9-11 a.m. NEW TIME 8-10 am

Todd Derkacz will lead hikers from one end of Purgatory Creek Natural Area to the other, a total of 5-6 miles. Meet at the Hunter Road entrance and we'll leave some cars there and rideshare to the upper Purgatory entrance near WonderWorld and Craddock, where the hike will begin. (Those who left cars at the Hunter Rd. entrance will return drivers to the upper entrance.) As always, wear long pants, closed toe shoes, sunscreen, and bring a water bottle. Hats and camera recommended.

Please check back to confirm dates and times prior to each hike.

Trailbuilding Every Thursday, 7:00-8:30 a.m.
Location TBA. Email us at alliance@smgreenbelt.org or follow SMGreenbelt Follow us on Twitter on Twitter to receive location, directions, and last-minute weather cancellations. Gloves, hard shoes, eye wear required. Water bottle, long pants, hat recommended. We supply tools and bug repellent. 

Community Events

TOWN Hikes: The Texas Outdoors Woman Network leads hikes every 1st, 3rd, and 4th Thursdays at 5:30pm in one of the many greenspaces around town. Email Judy at judy@americruit.com to be added to the weekly hiking email list.

KSMB Movie in Your Park Eco-Night: Bring your friends, family, lawn chairs, and blankets to San Marcos Plaza Park and enjoy Disney’s blockbuster hit Toy Story 3 at the 3rd Annual Movie in Your Park Eco-Night hosted by Keep San Marcos Beautiful, the city’s public awareness campaign to improve the overall beauty and image of the community.  KSMB focuses on litter prevention, waste reduction and beautification. Starting at 6:30 PM, the KSMB kick-off event will feature an Eco-Showcase of local organizations, businesses and programs that promote earth-friendly ways to live in San Marcos. For more information contact Heather Powdrill at 512.393.8420 or by email at hpowdrill@sanmarcostx.gov.

5/17 Edwards Aquifer RIP Stakeholders: RIP meetings are always open to the public. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the SM Activity Center. Email wassench@grandecom.net for more information.

5/17 CIP Openhouse: Read more here.

5/21 Texas Invasives Class: Same class described here repeated in New Braunfels. More info at http://www.texasinvasives.org/invaders/workshop_results.php 

Wastewater Line Through Spring Lake Preserve

SMGA has serious concerns about the proposed wastewater line to be routed through Spring Lake Preserve and underneath Sink Creek. We are sensitive to the need to replace overburdened existing lines and to support future development in and around the North LBJ area. However, Spring Lake Preserve is a shared investment for all San Marcos citizens. The collaborative efforts of a bond, voted upon by the people of San Marcos and Hays County, demonstrate widespread support for this preserve. The addition of a wastewater line through the preserve is antithetical to its primary purpose: the protection of the headwaters of the San Marcos River and Spring Lake as well as the Edwards Aquifer recharge features that supply the lake's water. Many of our partners in the purchase of this property expect us to protect the numerous endangered species of this ecosystem. We should honor our shared intent.

We appreciate that the city's engineers are aware of mistakes made during installation of phase one of the wastewater line and plan to incorporate best practices in future line construction. Given the significant mistakes in phase one it would be wise to mandate rigorous precautions above and beyond the minimal requirements. We further ask that the council consider alternative routes, in addition to those considered in the initial evaluation, for this wastewater line. The initial set of options were restricted in scope due to the outdated wastewater master plan. At the very least, if council chooses the more dangerous course, it should insist that any wastewater line through this sensitive area be subjected to more frequent and rigorous inspections than is currently required during and long after construction.

SMGA is currently drafting a letter regarding our concerns with this project. Please take the time to contact the Mayor and City Council at mayor_council_info@sanmarcostx.gov with your concerns before this issue comes up on the council agenda on May 17. A recent presentation to the community on the proposed wastewater line is available at

CIP Open House May 19 - Support Parks and Trails

The City of San Marcos has rescheduled the Capital Improvements Open House for May 19, 6-7 pm at the Price Center. Capital improvement projects include major street, water, wastewater and electric utility, parks and equipment investments by the City of San Marcos. Staff members
from all City departments will be on hand to answer questions. There will be a brief presentation followed by a discussion focusing on 2011-2012 priority projects with some discussion of the 2013-2019 projects.

In the past projects such as the Purgatory Creek trail has been included, as well as other park and trail improvements. Please plan to attend and voice your support for parks and trails in San Marcos.

Spring Lake Preserve Trail Closure

Melani Howard, the city's watershed protection manager, reports that golden-cheeked warblers have been sighted in the Spring Lake Preserve area. Further investigation is ongoing. U.S. Fish and Wildlife requires that the ADA trail they helped fund be closed during golden-cheeked warbler nesting season (beginning of April through May) to avoid disrupting reproduction of this endangered species. The trail closure will occur annually on those dates. Email Melani Howard with questions MHoward@sanmarcostx.gov.

Meanwhile, thanks to Texas State geography student Stephen Ramirez for posting golden-cheeked warbler photos at http://birdsiview.org/Birds/PerchingBirds/Warblers/GoldenCheekedWarbler.html (taken in Austin). Check out these great photos and keep your eyes peeled for these charmers.

Rattler Ridge Trail Up and Running - Literally!

As part of Field Day, San Marcos High School held the Rattler Run with over 150 participants running (or walking) the brand-new SMHS Rattler Ridge trail. Students and staff are walking the trail daily, and the run has led to more interest in cross-country running and in the other trails in San Marcos (especially Purgatory Creek Natural Area). An estimated 300+ hours of student volunteer work was invested in building the just over one-mile-long trail. Some of the students have caught the trail building bug too. There's lots of talk about a phase 2 extension, bridge building, kiosks, etc.

SMGA donated a sign for the trail, loaned some tools, and provided expertise in trail design and building techniques. Special thanks to SMGA Stewardship Committee chair Charlie O'Neil, who was out there working with the kids for hours and hours.

It's exciting to hear and experience the buzz of a new trail and new experience for many of the students. One in particular has taken his whole family mountain biking out there, and then led a group of 10+ high school kids to hike from the Wonder World trailhead to the Upper Purgatory entrance. The following article has some information about the SMHS Bike Club, which sponsored the trail, and early information about the trail itself: http://www.smcisd.net/popup_info.cfm?story=1136 or http://www.sanmarcosrecord.com/local/x977558985/Block-lunches-inspire-love-of-bicycling.

Bobcat Build - Can a Stone Wall Be Built in a Day?

Over 40 people, including a combination of SMGA volunteer leaders and Bobcat Build participants, completed seven projects during Bobcat Build On April 9 in the Prospect Park portion of Purgatory Creek Natural Area. The projects included invasive removal, native grass planting, removal of a silt fence (replacing it with a stone wall), walking all the trails and removing new growth and other obstructions, repairing the tread on the ADA trail, opening view sheds for two benches and 'rescuing' and replanting native plants. Special thanks to two groups, ECO (Environmental Conservation Organization) and Professor Susan Hanson's class on Nature and the Quest for Meaning. Both groups contributed large numbers of workers and a lot of spirit.

Thanks to Hope Shimek and Lance Jones for sharing these photos. And thanks to these SMGA volunteer leaders: Mike Baugh, Donna Browning, Todd Derkacz, Rick Henderson, Lance Jones, Jo Ellen Korthals, Dick McBride, Ida Miller, Charlie O'Neil, Kenny Skrobanek, Mark & Ben Taylor

Bits & Pieces : What's a Trail Worth, Deer Population Control, Free Maps

The April issue of Eye on Nature Newsletter - Getting Texans Involved in Nature highlights include:
  • Managing for Wildlife Diversity Through Deer Population Control
  • Texas Wild Rice
  • Edwards Aquifer
  • Conservation, Landowners, Government and Real Estate

What's a River (and a Trail) Worth?
Thanks to Dianne Wassenich for sharing this story recently. It aligns nicely with the general principles our conservation committee (and the SMGA board) operate with. http://www.rivernetwork.org/news/whats-river-worth

Free Wildlife Viewing Maps!

Texas Parks & and Wildlife is celebrating the completion of the Great Texas Wildlife Trails by giving away free large colorful trail maps that make it easy and fun to plan a driving trip to go wildlife-watching anywhere in Texas. The Great Texas Wildlife Trails is a statewide network of wildlife-viewing trails that launched its first wildlife trail in the state 15 years ago. Today there are nine different maps, each corresponding to a different region of the state, with more than 950 viewing sites in all. Each region offers unique bird, mammal and butterfly viewing opportunities. So grab some binoculars, pick up your free trail maps at any state park or TxDOT travel information center while supplies last, and get out there and see how many different kinds of wildlife you can see! For more information visit www.tpwd.state.tx/wildlifetrails

San Marcos River Flow Well Below Average - Conserve Water!

The San Marcos River Foundation reported last week that the San Marcos River is down to 130 cfs on Sunday, 45 cfs below median average. Watering with drip irrigation or soaker hoses or hand watering is still allowed as needed, but watering with sprinklers is only allowed once a week. You can report violations to the city's water conservation officer, Jan Klein by calling 393-8310, and let her be the one to give those not in compliance a explanatory lesson on  water conservation rules. Repeated violations can bring fines. Read about watering rules at http://sanmarcostx.gov/news/Docs/11April19_Stage_1.pdf. All those within city limits are subject to these rules, whatever their water supply.

Nature Center Needs Flying & Walking Volunteers

The Monarch butterflies in the San Marcos Nature Center butterfly house need some antelope horn (milkweed). If you have some to share or know where to find some, please contact the Nature Center and let them know. Or dig it up (including roots, make sure you have permission to do so) and take it to them: 430 Riverside Dr.

    School groups are scheduled to visit the San Marcos Nature Center on the dates below. If you can volunteer to help supervise, contact Melani Howard at MHoward@sanmarcostx.gov or (512) 393-8447.

    May 6th: County Line 9:30-11:30 (60 kids)
    May 17th: UT Charter School 9:30-11:30 (40 Kids)

    Other events:
    • Mother's Day Walk and Craft!, Saturday, May 7 at 10:00am
    • Wild Wednesday - Butterfly Extravaganza, Wednesday, May 18 at 4:30pm
    • Butterfly House Seasonal Opener, Saturday, May 28 at 10:00 am

    SMGA Volunteers Lead Geocache Hike

    Searching for a Geocache
    Thanks to SMGA volunteers Elizabeth Wills and Bridgett Phillips, who recently led a group of kids on a geocache hike. As one mom said, "They  got to the first one [geocache] and just went wild (literally) with excitement when it was opened... It was truly a great day and awesome experience. It really ignited imaginations and interest in other geocaches."

    Bike Cave Adopts Spring Lake Preserve

    We are very excited to hear that the Bike Cave at Texas State University has adopted Spring Lake Preserve through Keep San Marcos Beautiful's Adopt-a-Spot program. Spring Lake Preserve, Schulle Canyon, and Ringtail Ridge have all been adopted, and SMGA appreciates the extra stewardship of the natural areas. If you know of a group that would like to adopt a park or greenspace, please contact Heather Powdrill at 512.393.8420 or by email at hpowdrill@sanmarcostx.gov.

    Close your eyes and listen...

    …to a chat with Todd Derkacz that aired recently on KTSW! Click here to hear Todd talk about SMGA's vision and our local natural areas.