4 Mile Friday Run in SM Natural Areas

From 4Mile Friday:
4 Mile Friday will be hosting its first annual trail run series. Trail runs will take place at 3 natural areas in San Marcos, TX. Our first event will take place Friday Feb. 3 and will start at the northeast entrance [off of Craddock and WonderWorld Dr.] of Purgatory Creek at 5pm. We welcome donations to benefit the services of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, but by no means is a donation required as this is a FREE event. But any contribution will be greatly welcomed.

The trail runs will be well marked so beginners are encouraged to come out. For those with a competitive spirit we will be offering bibs so we can track your time. We will post run times and you can compare your runs throughout the series. Come on out and have some fun!!! Visit Facebook or http://4milefriday.myfullseat.com/ for more info.
NOTE: The first run date of 2/3 will likely be postponed due to rain.

Trails Mapped Throughout SM Natural Areas!

Purgatory Creek Natural Area trail map by Kenny Skrobanek
As you will read in our annual meeting report in this newsletter, great thanks are due to Kenny Skrobanek for creating legible, accurate, and extremely attractive trail maps of all of our natural areas here in San Marcos. This is something that SMGA has been looking forward to for a very long time! So without further ado, visit our Natural Areas page  and look for the list of maps in the upper right corner of the page. You'll find maps for these trails:

    Blanco Shoals
    Purgatory Creek Natural Area - All
    Purgatory Creek Natural Area - Lower
    Purgatory Creek Natural Area - Upper
    Purgatory Creek Natural Area - Prospect Park
    Ringtail Ridge
    Schulle Canyon
    Spring Lake Preserve

Of course, we keep building trails and we keep reaching toward our vision of a community connected by green corridors. So I suspect you'll be reading about Kenny's good works for some time to come!

- by Ann Jensen, Outreach Committee

Thank You To Recent Donors

Cypress Sun Jewelry
Thank you to Cypress Sun Jewelry for the donation of a percentage of retail sales to SMGA. For 2012, Cypress Sun will contribute 3% of retail and wholesale sales. Each and every sale will now benefit SMGA. As the Cypress Sun tagline says, "timeless adornment for the playful spirit." If you are shopping for a beautiful jewelry, inspired by the beauty of San Marcos, visit Cypress Sun Jewelry.

Hobby Foundation
Thank you again to the Hobby Foundation for their continual support of SMGA. Their support helps fund projects such as promoting the greenbelt vision, trail maintenance, and administrative expenses. Thank you!

Welcome to the Board: Mark Taylor and Steve Goodson

We are so pleased to welcome two wonderful new board members to SMGA. We thank you for your commitment to our mission and look forward to many good things to come!

Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor is familiar to many of you. Mark, his wife Jo, and son Ben are long-time members of SMGA, and Jo was a founding board member. As a child Marked lived for three years on the edge of the Sahara in Libya followed by two years near Phoenix, and as he says, “Five years without trees greatly enhances your appreciation of trees.” Mark’s connection with nature was instilled through hiking and camping trips with his father, mother and brother. This connection has been reinforced with Jo’s active interest in nature, and shared with their son Ben, who, by the way also helps with trail crew. Mark and Ben continue to get away for outdoor trips as often as they can. Mark is a former city employee who assisted with a number of parkland acquisitions. Now he finds himself helping build trails in them on Thursday mornings. Some of you will recall Inga VanNynatten, the National Park Service staff member who helped get the Greenbelt Alliance organized. Mark makes a point of looking each day at a photograph Inga took, on which is said, “Through simplicity and close rapport with nature, one encounters the sacred”.

Steve Goodson
Steve Goodson has also had a lifelong interest in the outdoors and the environment, having grown up hiking, hunting, and fishing and today Steve is an avid hiker (you may well have seen him on our trails), birder, and surfer. He is a graduate of UT with English honors and taught high school English and Latin before receiving his law degree. His practice focused primarily on litigation related to maritime, transportation and energy claims. He continues his practice part time with a Houston law firm. Steve and his wife Gloria have lived in San Marcos permanently since June. He first discovered San Marcos through a connection with the Murray Harper family in the early 70s, and Steve has been coming to San Marcos on a regular basis in his time at UT. He even had the opportunity to assist Dr Joel Shiner of SMU, who some of you may remember kicked off the first serious archaeological project at Spring Lake. Steve is a member of Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Ducks Unlimited (though not a hunter), and other earth-conscious organizations. And he is a life member of SMGA! Steve would like to help us protect our natural areas for others, present and future, and hopes to bring his appreciation of the environment, his understanding of law, and his negotiation skills to the board.

Pioneer Spirit Award Honors SMGA's Mission

Last Thursday, Maggie Hutchins-Wagner was honored to accept a Pioneer Spirit Award at the State of the City address for "encouraging and achieving the preservation and expansion of parks, trails and greenspace as part of the city's essential infrastructure." It's exciting to have the SMGA mission honored and gain support from the council, mayor, and the community. As Maggie says, "With the expected final signatures of the 107 acres this week, it is an amazing time for us to see our vision come one step closer to reality! I am so thankful that an organization such as SMGA exists and grows and that I have the opportunity to be a small part of it!"

SMGA Holds Successful Meeting!

SMGA held a successful annual meeting at the Price Center on Saturday, January 21, 2012. The meeting was chock-full of inspiring success stories, thank-yous to our hard-working partners, and an overall celebratory sentiment for all that we have done, and aim to do, in the coming year.

After Maggie Hutchins, past president of SMGA, welcomed guests and introduced committee members, treasurer Charlie O'Neill explained SMGA's financial situation and Lance Jones reported for the Stewardship Committee. This committee’s work is inspiring due to progress on the ground and dedicated volunteers that show up regularly to get their hands dirty. Over the years, volunteers have built 27 trails tracking 16.985 miles in our six parks! Rebecca Ybarra-Ramirez delivered the report for the Outreach Committee, showcasing the events, written materials, and t-shirts that help spread the awareness of SMGA to the community. The Conservation Committee’s report was delivered by Sherwood Bishop, with a presentation showing new parkland dedication and future projects. Each committee’s efforts are unique and invaluable to achieving the mission for the organization.

Board president Todd Derkacz recognized donors and volunteers, including Jane Hughson for becoming a lifetime member and Steven Ramirez for leading fascinating birding hikes. He also thanked departing board members Rebecca Ybarra-Ramirez and Ann Jensen. Ann Jensen served as a board member for six years and was a great influence on outreach materials for the organization. She was presented with a pen made from the wood of an oak tree that grew in Purgatory Creek Natural Area.

After the membership voted to approve new board members Mark Taylor and Steve Goodson (click to read more about Mark and Steve), Todd presented the Volunteer of the Year award to Kenny Skrobanek for his detailed and accurate maps of the parks and their trails. Kenny received a magnifying glass with a handle made from the same oak that grew in Purgatory Creek Natural Area. Never before have San Marcos’ natural areas been mapped so thoroughly.

Maggie welcomes Scott Parker
Guest speaker Scott Parker, senior program director of Trust for Public Land – Texas, then explained the recent acquisition of the 107-acre addition to the Purgatory Creek Natural Area. The land was selected based on the Greenprinting model that was developed by Envision Central Texas and CAPCOG. This tract is Phase 1, Part A of a plan to add three tracts to the Western edge of the existing 463 acre natural area. Phase 1, Part B is a 182 acre tract, projected for completion in 2013, to be followed by Phase 2, a 312 acre tract. By the end of the process, Purgatory Creek Natural Area will include 1065 acres of endangered species habitat over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. On conclusion of Scott’s presentation, Maggie presented him with SMGA’s Walking Stick Award in appreciation and recognition for his efforts in acquiring the additional Purgatory Creek Natural Area acreage.

Upon the close of the agenda, guests enjoyed refreshments donated by the Bluebonnet Lions Club, and reflected on the numerous achievements that were accomplished. The recap of a successful year will certainly get the association geared up for another to follow!
- by Mary Van Zant, Outreach Committee

Update on Bastrop State Park

Have you found yourself reluctant to visit Bastrop State Park? News has been widespread about fire damage to the park last September, and the park was closed to visitors until December. Jo Korthals and Mark and Ben Taylor recently overcame their reluctance, and found the park to be well worth a visit.

Areas of the park have reopened, and Jo, Mark and Ben were able to hike from the swimming pool area along the creek that leads up to the pond and nearby CCC-era cabins. Some areas of the park are accessible only along the paved roads. Damage from the fire is indeed extensive, and those familiar with the park will find that some areas are hard to recognize. An example of this is the hilltop lookout point.

On the other hand, the destruction is by no means total. Some areas such as the old cabins were undamaged. Even the worst burn areas have pine trees with signs of life that are being preserved, and damaged trees and undergrowth are sprouting from the roots thanks to rainfall in December. 

While a large area of the park remains closed to visitors, the main camping area near the swimming pool is open. A smoky odor lingers in the air, but ash on the ground has mostly been absorbed in the soil, especially in trail areas. It’s definitely worth it to overcome your reluctance and make the trip to Bastrop to see a beautiful natural area in the course of recovery.

- Mark Taylor, SMGA Board Member 

Editor's note: Texas Parks and Wildlife needs our support! Pay a visit to and support a state park during this pleasant winter season in Central Texas. Read more

Don't Miss the Fun! SMRF Auction & Dinner - Saturday 2/18

Each February, the San Marcos River Foundation puts on a not-to-be-missed dinner party. The food is always awesome and plentiful (you'd pay a lot for this meal at a restaurant!) and accompanied by a silent auction where you can pick up some great deals (see link below) and a brief business meeting. Best of all, you will be supporting an organization that works hard to keep our river clean and flowing and that contributes greatly to our quality of life here in San Marcos.

Reflected Beauty by Shannon Brotherton, Naturescapes 2010
The address of the event is Price Center, 222 West San Antonio St. No ticket required. The party begins at 5:30 with happy hour and reviewing the silent auction, and the dinner buffet begins at 6. The annual meeting, with awards and a brief election of board members, will start at 7:15 and silent auction will close after that. Members usually pay their dues at this event each year, buy tshirts, and bid enthusiastically on auction items to help support the many projects of SMRF the rest of the year.

So put this event on your calendar now and check the SMRF web site. Click the auction list at the top of the home page. You can bid via email to wassenich@grandecom.net or call 512-787-6392. Check back for photos and other additions SMRF will take bids until noon Feb. 18 and at the party.

Interconnected: People and Places in San Marcos

SMGA board members and volunteers spend lots of time discussing connections - how to connect trails within a park, how to connect one natural area to another, how to connect one neighborhood to another, and how to connect San Marcos' natural areas to other cities. We discuss connections between quality of life, health, and access for people - connecting people to nature - and connections between land conservation and habitat, endangered species and water quality. And we should focus on these connections, since our mission is to create an interconnected system of parks and natural areas. We accomplish this by taking a big picture view.

One important and overlooked component of interconnectedness is people. To connect people, and in our case accomplish our mission, we must open our minds. We must broaden our connections with people - share the greenbelt vision with a variety of people and audiences, from engineers and planners  to developers, neighbors, teachers, and children. A broader audience means more perspectives which helps spur new ideas. It's enlightening to hear other perspectives and discover new ways to resolve issues and accomplish goals. This interconnectedness is essential.

My favorite connection with people happens on the trail. It may be sharing a snack at the Overlook, music at the Learning Tree, sitting on a bench at Schulle, or helping a lost visitor at Spring Lake. It's easier to connect to people and expand personal connections with people on a trail than in a car,  standing in line at the store, or in a meeting. The trail provides a place for a shared experience - fresh air, exercise, and hopefully a little unexpected adventure.

I ask everyone this year to take someone out to a natural area to enjoy San Marcos' beauty, appreciate our community, and get to know each other just a bit better.

- Maggie Hutchins, SMGA Board Member

From the Tree Tops

Todd Derkacz climbs to the top of a tree in Purgatory Creek. San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero and SMGA board member Maggie Hutchins watched him leap to the tree tops one day last month to take photos of the proposed 107 acres of Purgatory Creek Natural Area.

Share Your Greenbelt Vision With The City This Week

Continuing its visioning Dream San Marcos Process, the city of San Marcos is hosting a series of open houses for each sector of the city. In addition, there is one city-wide open house for all citizens to attend. This is the time to share your greenbelt vision! Please attend both your sector meeting (list below) and the city-wide open house this Thursday from 5:30 - 7:00 pm at Embassy Suites. Your input will be used in planning the city's budget and for establishing long term goals.  

Horses in Fog by Marilyn Brister, Naturescapes 2007
The greenbelt vision has had a very strong showing in the on-line Dream San Marcos, and we need to make sure that our voices continue to be heard in the comprehensive master planning process.

Just after the city-wide open house at Embassy Suites is the State of the City address by Mayor Daniel Guerrero and the City Council. They will report  on the State of the City with brief presentations by each member.

FYI: Refreshments will be served at each community meeting and residents are encouraged to attend one of the eight sessions to participate in making dreams a reality in San Marcos. The format is "come and go," so residents can spend a few minutes or a few hours at the sessions. Spanish translators will be available at each session. We will see you there!

Schedule of Meetings:

Jan. 24: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Goodnight Middle School Cafeteria, 1301 Hwy 123. Sectors 5 & 6: Sunset Acres, El Camino Real, Hills of Hays, Wallace Addition, Blanco Gardens, Blanco River Village, E.  Aquarena Springs Dr.

Jan. 26: State of the City: 5:30-7 p.m. Embassy Suites/City Conference Center (Community-wide event)

Jan. 30: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Dunbar Center, 801 MLK Drive Sectors 1 & 8: Dunbar, Heritage, Westover, Downtown, Texas State University.

Feb. 2: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Activity Center, 501 E Hopkins Street. Sector 9: Willow Creek.

Feb. 6: 6:30-8:30 p.m. First Lutheran Church, 130 W Holland St. Sector 2: Castle Forest, Franklin Square, Oak Heights, Southwest Hills.

Feb. 9: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Travis Elementary Cafeteria, 1437 Post Rd.  Sector 7: Blanco Vista, Millview, Uhland Rd., Post Rd, Thorpe Lane.

Feb. 13: 6:30-8:30 p.m. First Lutheran Church 130 W Holland St. Sector 3: Alamo, Highland, Holland Hills, Hughson Hts., Sierra Circle, Tanglewood, N. LBJ. N. Craddock.

For more information, visit http://www.sanmarcostx.gov/dreammaker or call 512.393.8000.

Spring Hike Calendar

First Saturday of each month, Birding Hikes, visit www.birdsiview.org/ for more information
  • February 4th, Schulle Canyon
  • March 3rd, Location TBD
Saturday, March 31st, Bobcat Build, email alliance@smgreenbelt.org to assist with Bobcat volunteers.

Saturday, April 14th, 9 am, Prospect Park Natural Area, Family friendly, spring bloom hike through Prospect Park.

Saturday, April 28th, 9 am, Upper Purgatory Creek Natural Area, Hike with Botanist Minette Marr

Also, Saturday, June 9th is National Get Outdoors Day: Get out with your friends and family to a natural area you have not yet visited!

Check our calendar for last-minute changes or updates. Or find us on Facebook.

Preserve the peace, the quiet, and the place…

Our natural areas are living, breathing places with a wide variety of plants and critters. Please help us care for these beautiful places; they are working hard to clean our water and our air. Let's return the favor by keeping them clean and natural and following these city park rules:

Take only photos, leave only footprints.
Park open sunrise to sunset (curfew applies after sunset).
Keep dogs on a leash and remove their waste.
Campfires, glass containers, motor vehicles, weapons, horses, and camping are not permitted.
Stay on established trails on public property.
Bicycles yield to hikers, refrain from biking on muddy trails.

Note: San Marcos natural areas do not currently offer restroom facilities or running water. Some trails can be rugged and grasses tall, so wear long pants and closed, strong shoes. Water, hat, sunscreen and camera are a good idea.

Report problems to San Marcos Parks & Recreation at (512) 393-8400. Emergencies call 911.

Volksmarch Group Has Successful Hike

Checkpoint #1 at Spring Lake Natural Area
The San Marcos Riverwalkers 5 km and 10 kilometer hike Saturday, Jan. 14 was a resounding success with 171 registered hikers. The annual event drew participants from around Central Texas.

Both courses utilized the 0.9 mile ADA trail at Spring Lake Preserve and then coursed through the neighborhood above Texas State University. Barbara Piersol, AVA chapter president and event organizer,  incorporates trails in different natural areas each year. The last two years included Prospect Park, and the year-round hike uses the San Marcos River as an attraction.

Saturday morning started off above freezing but as the sun rose so did the temperature, making for a pleasant hike. Many comments were made by the hikers about the attractive trail system and local residents wanted to know how long it had been there.  Migrating robins continued to jump from treetop to treetop at the crest of the natural area.

- Lance Jones, Stewardship Committee

Birding Hike Leads to New Sightings

Fourteen ardent birders followed Stephen Ramirez around the trails at the Ringtail Ridge natural area early Saturday morning January 6th. They were rewarded with more than the usual sightings of cardinals, mockingbirds, and sparrows.
Sunrise at Ringtail Ridge

Stephen Ramirez (center) meets new birders
The sunrise outing netted robins, cedar waxwings and both American and lesser goldfinches. The cedar waxwings were observed eating sugarberries and ashe juniper berries. And they had a feast. Some chinaberries were also eaten in the process.

The one and half-hour hike covered only a portion of the 40 acre natural area that was showing green in early January.  Recent rains in November and December benefited the greenspace, although more than a few trees were drought stressed. The hackberry trees were affected the most but will now provide cover and shelter for the birds and small animals.  Woodpeckers were heard but not sighted.

Free birding hikes occur on the first Saturday of the month and are led by Stephen Ramirez. Schulle Canyon, February 4th is the site of the next birding hike. Check dates and get more information at Stephen's website: http://birdsiview.org/

- Lance Jones, Stewardship Committee

Saturday, Jan 14 - River Walkers Host Spring Lake 5k, 10k

The San Marcos River Walkers are sponsoring a 5km and 10km walk Saturday, January 14, 2012. The walk is noncompetitive and starts at the Texas River Center, 952 Aquarena Springs Drive. You can start anytime between 8 am and noon and must finish no later than 3 pm. There is a $3 registration fee for credit or $2 for non-credit.

The walk continues through the Spring Lake preserve to a viewing area. A checkpoint directs walkers to Mimosa Circle for 5km (3.1 mi.) or 10 km (6.2 mi.) routes through the Spring Lake Hills neighborhood.

The American Volkssport Association's 300 clubs sponsor fun, fitness and friendship events throughout the United States. The association sponsors more than 3,000 walking events, bike rides and occasional swim events every year in most of the 50 states. All events are open to the public.

For additional information please contact Barbara Piersol at (512) 396-4463 or bpiersol@grandecom.net

New PSA's on Watershed Protection

From GEAA (www.aquiferalliance.org):
The San Antonio River Authority, along with the Olmos Basin Alliance and its marketing partner Thompson Marketing, recently wrapped shooting and post production of two important 60-second PSAs geared to promote awareness about what can become of loose trash when it's not properly disposed.  Encourage everyone you know to protect our watersheds by putting trash in its place.


Bird hike this Saturday, January 7, 7:30 AM

From http://www.birdsiview.org/SanMarcosBirdWalks.html:
January 7: Join us at Ringtail Ridge to enjoy the wintering birds that have chosen San Marcos as their home for the season. Ringtail Ridge offers a unique habitat compared to the more central and eastern parks in town as we transition into the Hill Country, so come find out what it has to offer bright and early at 7:30am.
Email Stephen at stephen@birdsiview.org to be added to his bird hike email list.

Plan to Attend Our Annual Meeting - Saturday, January 21

Come and Get It, by Carol Serur, Naturescapes Contest 2010
Here's a great way to start the new year right and mingle with like-minded folks at our annual meeting. As in the past, we will provide happy hour beverages and refreshments followed by a brief update on recent activities.

Scott Parker with the Trust for Public Land will discuss the current and future expansion of the Purgatory Creek Natural Area.

Date: Saturday, January 21
Time: 3:00-5:00 PM
Place: Price Center, 222 W. San Antonio Street

Purgatory Creek Natural Area to Grow by 107 Acres

Thanks to Marion Posey, Hays County, the Trust for Public Land, the City of San Marcos, the Edwards Aquifer Authority, the Nature Conservancy, the Meadows Foundation, and the Knobloch Foundation, 107 acres will be added to Purgatory Creek Natural area, bringing the total acreage of PCNA to just over 570 acres. SMGA continues to work with these partners to add contiguous parcels in the expansion of PCNA, and we remain optimistic. To hear more information on the PCNA expansion, attend our annual meeting, January 21st, to hear from Scott Parker of the Trust for Public Land.

Sean Batura of the San Marcos Mercury included this summary of the status of potential future improvements at PCNA in a recent story (link below):
Between them, the city and county have committed $3 million for improvements to the natural area but an interlocal agreement prevents all of the funds from going toward land purchase without associated improvements needed to make the land accessible to the public.

Plans also call for a wildlife observation area, a nature center, a native plan garden, restrooms, trails — and an internal park road to get there. The nature center plans hit a snag earlier in September when the city council declined to award a design contract for the project; since then, council members have batted around the prospect of scaling down the project or putting it on hold indefinitely.


Look for New Signage at Purgatory Creek Natural Area

Thursday morning trail crew
The first of several directional and distance markers were placed in Purgatory Creek Natural Area on December 1, 2011 by the Thursday morning trail crew. The Malacoda spur trail leads to a very impressive grotto showing the force water can have on the limestone. Distance markers to the trail head are engraved on the post. Additional markers at key intersections will be placed in the coming months. Pictured (L. to R.) Todd Derkacz, Dick McBride, Mark Taylor, Marilyn Brister, Donna Browning, Paul Murray and Lance Jones. Not shown: Charlie O'Neil, Sheila Torres-Blank, Mike Baugh and John Payne.)

-Report and photo by Lance Jones, Stewardship Committee

Schulle Canyon Gets Attention!

Trail crew repairs Warbler Walk erosion
The week between holidays provided an opportunity for the trail crew to expand their efforts and recruit local neighbors to assist in making Schulle Canyon a premier natural area within the city limits. Planning for the event was completed by Kenneth Dees, Jo Ellen Korthals and Charles O'Neil. Among the projects tackled by the volunteers and neighbors were adding steps into the greenspace at Sierra Circle and eliminating a steep walkway prone to erosion. Several crew members took down a dead hackberry tree next to the parking area at the Alamo Street trail head that was a casualty of the drought. Also accomplished in the 3 hours of work was cleaning drainage areas to allow for water flow during those heavy rains, loping and trimming along the almost 2 miles of trail and a trash pickup in the natural area.

The 21 acres of natural parkland was the first in San Marcos that now has five additional natural areas for residents to enjoy. The parkland is listed as Heart of Texas East birding trail number 62 by the Texas Department of Transportation and is a good location for bird watching, dog walking, and family exercise.

-by Lance Jones, Stewardship Committee