River Clean Up - Saturday, March 3

Larry Alford, Waiting, Naturescapes 2007 Winner
From the City of San Marcos:
The public is invited to join the Great Texas River Clean Up on Saturday, March 3 in San Marcos.

Volunteers will meet at 9:30 a.m. at the City Park Rec Hall/ Lion’s Club Toob Rental at 170 Charles Austin Drive to register and pick up recycling and trash bags. Breakfast tacos provided by LULAC and coffee from Jo on the Go will be provided for volunteers.

Bank walkers, hikers and canoeists are invited to join in the event to keep the popular spring-fed San Marcos River and contributing creeks clean. Canoes will be available courtesy of TG Canoes. Those wishing to canoe are asked to be at City Park by 10 a.m. for a group meeting.

Pizza will be donated by Dominos pizza for all those who participate. Lunch will be served from 12 to 2 p.m. The event is sponsored by the San Marcos Lion’s Club and the City Parks & Recreation.

Everyone participating in the event is welcome to camp for free at either Shady Grove Campgrounds or at the San Marcos River Retreat. On Saturday evening, a free meal will be provided by the San Marcos River Foundation at Shady Grove Campgrounds.

For additional information, please contact Melani Howard, Watershed Protection Program Manager, at the City of San Marcos Nature Center at (512) 393-8448

River Walk Bird Hike - Saturday, March 3

From Stephen Ramirez:
Let's meet at the Lion's Club / City Park parking lot at 7 AM. ( I know it's early but the sunrise is getting sooner and sooner.) We'll look for the birds hanging out along the river banks and in the riparian canopies. We'll try to make it down to the playscape park and back. Map: http://tinyurl.com/smcitypark
**Optional** I invite everyone to join in on the annual San Marcos River clean up as soon as we're done! 
Hope to see you all out there!

Think Big, Collaborate and Be Bold - Build the Greenway System

There are many milestones and many opportunities converging in our community that will determine whether or not we will have the connectivity and the natural resources our community deserves. Together all these factors demand we see the big picture, work as collaborators and act decisively. We must achieve an integrated greenway system based on our rivers, creeks and recharge features, based on the widespread insistence on river and aquifer protection and based on the increased demand for bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

Greenways along rivers and creeks hold grass and tree cover, protect natural habitats, improve water quality and reduce the impacts of flooding in floodplain areas. Greenways with trails enhance existing recreational opportunities, provide routes for alternative transportation, and improve the overall quality of life in an area. San Marcos is ideal for an integrated, comprehensive greenways system both because of the opportunities it has with two rivers and several creeks and because of the serious need we have for watershed protection, health and safety. For more information, check out the American Trails webpage. http://www.americantrails.org/resources/benefits/index.html

Now is the time to plan for and begin piecing together our nascent greenway system.

Watershed studies have amassed enough science and technical information to make clearer what we need to do to protect our unique water resources. And every survey, every summit and every study conducted since the first paper survey was passed around over ten years ago confirms what we all know – build more bicycle and pedestrian facilities. We want to walk and bike and connect with each other for our civic activities but we want to do so safely, for our personal health and well being.

Add to that some opportunities. Our city is about to rewrite our comprehensive master plan, our land development code and our transportation master plan. These items will codify a vision that will influence how we participate as a community with those who would develop or redevelop properties beyond their current use. They direct funding for infrastructure and they will guide the business community in their decisions to create commerce, maintain value of assets and reduce risk.

The recent polarization of views related to the Sessom Creek area and neighborhoods near Holland Street would have some believe we could never collaborate as a community to create any plan that would serve both sets of interests let alone a greenway plan. The opposite is true. What both sides want is certainty. Where are the places we can be certain will remain stable? Where are the places we can develop? How will we protect our water resources and defend against flooding? Where can we build the infrastructure that supports our lifestyles?

We all need to be heard. Don’t expect to get served if you aren’t at the table. We may not all get what we want but if we get certainty based on a vision that goes past the current flashpoints, we can move forward. Greenways must be part of that vision.

SMGA has recently grown its Conservation Committee and will begin ramping up efforts toward a better vision, a better plan for our future – one that includes a greenway system. It’s time to see a bigger integrated picture, to collaborate and be bold.

- Todd Derkacz, SMGA Board President

Trail Closure for Warbler Season

Steve Maslowski, USFWS
The City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department, the agency that serves as land managers for our natural areas, notified us recently of the temporary closure of Paraiso trail in upper Purgatory Creek Natural Area and the area that surrounds it between March 1st and May 31st. This is required by the organizations that gave us the funds to purchase the property “in order to help protect the habitat for the Golden-Cheeked Warbler.” Permitted uses and guided hikes are still possible with approval from the parks staff. Contact Melani Howard at the Nature Center at 393-8448. Our credibility as a community in future agreements depends on our ability to serve as good stewards of the lands entrusted to us so please respect this closure. To see a map showing Paraiso Trail go to our map link for Upper Purgatory.

Citizens Comment on Land Management

Citizens give input on stewardship plan, Lance Jones
The San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department hosted an open house at the San Marcos Nature Center last Wednesday, Feb. 15 and received insightful comments from citizens representing a broad range of perspectives regarding the management of Spring Lake and Purgatory Creek Natural Areas.

The natural areas were acquired to protect endangered species, specially the Golden-Cheeked Warbler, and help promote the health of the San Marcos River and Edwards Aquifer through water quality and quantity best practices. Five areas of interest were identified: water quality and quantity, wildlife, plants, recreation, and fire breaks. There is a delicate balance among these areas of interests to be attained. The citizens of San Marcos have a strong passion for our natural areas, and their experience, expertise and observations are greatly appreciated, as we develop the plan for the public to enjoy the areas in perpetuity and expand them as our population grows. It is hoped that a community stewardship plan will be formulated to encourage the residents to help maintain our natural environment. Future focus groups will be scheduled to gather additional input.

In order to help protect the habitat for the Golden-Cheeked Warbler, the city will need to close trails within the habitat from March 1st through May 31st. We hope everyone will respect the trail closures.

Written comments can be emailed to landmgtplan@sanmarcostx.gov

Run to Benefit SMGA, SMRF & WaterAid America

From WaterAid:
The World Walks for Water 5K & Fun Run hosted by the WaterAid Chapter at Texas State University is a fundraising event for the whole family! The event will start and end in Sewell Park located on the Texas State Campus just north of City Park (please park in the Lion's Club parking lot). The course will go along the San Marcos River down past Rio Vista Park and back to Sewell Park. 
Race day check-in will take place in Sewell Park starting at 8:30am; please bring completed waiver. No one is allowed to participate without a completed waiver. The run will start promptly at 10:00am with runners going first, walkers will follow shortly after. No dogs. The event is open to all people of all ages (13 and up) with 5K and walker categories. Top female and male runners (18-25 and 25+ age groups) will receive medals from Hill Country Trophy.

Registration fee includes technical t-shirt provided by KC Sportswear and entry into the event plus live musical performances by The Bottom Dollar String Band and food post-race.

ALL EVENT PROFITS WILL BE USED A DONATION to WaterAid America, San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, and the San Marcos River Foundation.

Packet pick up will be Wednesday March 21 at the CORE Running Company from 9:00am -7:00pm in San Marcos, TX. ***This highly encouraged!!!***If you can not pick up your packet, please be in Sewell Park at 8:30 on March 24th to pick up your packet and complete your waiver.

If you have any questions, please contact us: WaterAidTxState@gmail.com
Can't wait to see you there!

SMGA & Bobcat Build 2012

SMGA and student volunteers will participate in Bobcat Build again this year. The program, which occurs on March 31 this year, enlists large numbers of students to work in the community on a Saturday. SMGA has used this labor in the past to plant seed, repair storm damage, build trails, remove invasive plants and trees and do major trash removal in the five natural areas in San Marcos. SMGA provides the tools and direction; the students provide the energy and enthusiasm.

This year's project will include all of the above activities. SMGA has several natural areas in mind for Bobcat Build, and will choose a location depending on greatest need, which might change because of a heavy rain or significant wind. We will communicate the exact location on our website and through Bobcat Build.

What's That Smell?

Annie Wagner enjoys agarita blooms
Have you taken a smell hike lately? Now is the time to go for a walk through the San Marcos natural areas and breathe in the sweet scent of the newly blooming mountain laurels and agarita. Do previous springtime memories come rushing back? If not, now is the time to associate the annual spring bloom with an experience of exploration, fun, fellowship, and relaxation.

Texas Mountain Laurel, Science-Engineering
Library, University of AZ
Used under Creative Commons

A hike in Prospect Park (especially along Metz bench and Steve's Lookout) or at Spring Lake Natural Area will overwhelm your senses. So join the bees, butterflies, and fellow bipeds and take a sniff of your natural area.

- Maggie Hutchins, SMGA Board Member

How Should We Manage Spring Lake and Purgatory?

We need your help. As a member of SMGA you understand the issues better than most so we are asking you to participate in a public input process next Wednesday, February 15th.

Here is information from the city press release about the development of a land management plan:
The San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department will host an open house at the San Marcos Nature Center, 430 Riverside Drive (next to Tourist Info Center on the access road of IH - 35 south) on Wednesday, Feb. 15 from 5 - 6:30 p.m. to receive comments from the public on its land management plan for the Spring Lake and Purgatory Creek Natural Areas....The city of San Marcos has started developing a land management plan for Spring Lake and Purgatory Creek natural areas that will address "...water quality and quantity, wildlife, plants, fire prevention, and recreation." 
Please attend if you possibly can and or take by some written comments. If you can't make it at that time you can also submit comments through email at landmgtplan@sanmarcostx.gov. For more information, call Melani Howard at 393.8448.
Rubyspot #8 by Scott Mitchell, Naturescapes Photo Contest
The question in the title is fundamental to the mission of our Stewardship Committee. Watershed for recharge and the river, habitat for species on the verge of extinction, flood control, health, recreation and tourism are all good motives for wanting to keep these beautiful places healthy. There are issues of proximity to neighborhoods such as fencing and fire control, access opportunity and limits, invasive species and how we can restore the appropriate flora and fauna. What exactly does a healthy natural area look like and what can we do to 'improve' the ecosystems while allowing visitors to experience them without harm?

As president of SMGA and as an active member of the trail crew it is clear to me that not only is a land management plan, also known as a stewardship plan, long overdue but the time has come for the city to employ someone who is dedicated to and trained as an ecologist, understands recreation and economic pressures and can organize and lead volunteer efforts. The Parks and Recreation Department is doing the best they can given their limited resources however those who are tasked with caring for these places must divide their time between many other functions. With just a little more support from the public by way of the city budget they could leverage a tremendous amount of  support from volunteers and the public and realize the ecologic and economic benefits. These places need a long term effort to restore the soil, ground cover, woody vegetation and animal species that support Nature's many services given back to our community. We need your voice to make this happen.

There have been many calls for public participation lately - please give this one some special consideration...

- Todd O. Derkacz, SMGA Board President

107 Acres - Done!

We are very excited to announce that the deal for the additional 107 acres of Purgatory Creek Natural Area is complete! PCNA is now almost 600 acres. We look forward to hosting guided hikes in the area in the near future.

City Master Plan Update

Comprehensive master plans, land management plans, there is not shortage of opportunities to share your voice with the city. We thank you for doing so, but ask that you continue to provide input on the Dream San Marcos process. Be specific, and tell them what you want to see for San Marcos' future.

From the City of San Marcos:

The City of San Marcos is planning to make community Dreams a Reality.

Using information gathered through citizen participation, the "Dream San Marcos" website, recent Level of Service Open Houses and other planned outreach activities, the City will initiate an extensive overhaul of the Horizons Master Plan this spring. 
The new Comprehensive Plan will incorporate transportation master planning, infrastructure recommendations and economic development as well as future land use recommendations, making it a truly Comprehensive Plan.  The process is anticipated to take approximately 18 months. 

"A key part of ensuring the plan will be a true community plan will be participation from our residents, businesses, organizations and institutions," said Mayor Daniel Guerrero.  "San Marcos enjoys a high level of citizen involvement, and we will have many opportunities for citizens to stay involved throughout the creation and drafting of the Comprehensive Plan."

The new Comprehensive Plan will incorporate much of the recommendations and background information from the current Horizons Master Plan, while bringing it up to date to reflect both San Marcos now and where the community wants to go in the next ten years.  Sector Plans will be incorporated into Preferred Growth Areas and Corridors as well as the overall plan.

The Dream San Marcos website will be temporarily offline for new comments as the City gears up for the Comprehensive Plan update kickoff. Previous comments will remain online in summary form.   All voting and commenting will be closed on February 14, 2012, so that the ideas and comments can be rolled into the overall community vision. 

In coming weeks, City staff will launch the public participation process with a new focus on making Dream San Marcos a reality, said Matthew Lewis, Director of Development Services.

"The new Comprehensive Plan will guide the City's growth for the next ten years," Lewis said.  "It will include recommendations on preserving our natural and built environment; enhancing culture and tourism; expanding business opportunities; and ensuring that growth occurs in a responsible and appropriate manner."

The City Council, Planning & Zoning Commission and City staff will use the document to make recommendations and decisions that will shape the city.  Citizen input will be critical in helping create the document, and ensuring that it is truly a community document.  Staff anticipates creating the document mostly in-house, with assistance from local consultants.