Tonight: Parks & Recreation Advisory Board: Cape's Camp & Thompson's Island Vision

Tonight, at 5:45 pm at the San Marcos Activity Center, representatives from the Blanco Gardens neighborhood will present a vision of a San Marcos river parks system that would extend from the west side of the highway, through Cape's Camp/Thompson's Island, and beyond Stokes Park. They are asking for the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board verbal approval of this vision.

Parks and recreational opportunities along the east side of IH-35 are repeatedly called for in the 2010 Parks Master Plan and the city master plan. In addition, the expansion of the city's river parks system is only possible in a substantial way on this parcel. The extension of the greenbelt along to the east side of IH-35 was one of the most popular items proposed by citizens in the Dream San Marcos on-line input process. In the Hays County Parks Master Plan 2012, the citizens asked for more river access. The citizens of San Marcos have insisted over and over again of the need to ensure that we are able to conserve the greatest amount of parkland possible in this location. This is an opportunity to provide the citizens of San Marcos with additional river access, a greenway trail to connect to the west side, and recreational opportunities for the Blanco Gardens neighborhood. Cape's Camp from the interstate to Cape Road (and beyond) needs to become an extension of river parks system. Spread the word, attend tonight's meeting to learn more, and we will continue to update you on this project.
Additional agenda items include:
  • Discussion and consideration - presentation from Neighborhood representative of Blanco Gardens on vision for riverside parkland that would extend from the west side of IH 35 to the east side of IH 35. Requesting support from the Parks Board in their efforts. 
  • Discussion and/or Recommendation - Casey development - approval/denial of combination proposal of Fee-in-lieu of with on site parkland dedication - Allison Blake Alison Brake, Planning Department
  • Discussion and/or Recommendation - Options for disposition of the Leah tract previously acquired by the city in exchange for park land. 

Agenda for tonight's meeting

CORRECTION: the planning department representative for the Casey development is Alison Brake, not Allison Blake


Photo Courtesy of Lance Jones
Every turn opens a new view on the trails this month as the wildflowers are in their full glory.  Mealy blue sage and thistles cover the meadow below Summit Ridge on Dante's Trail in the Purgatory Creek Natural Area. Yarrow, bluebonnets and thistles are abundant at the Spring Lake Preserve. Blanco Shoals, Schulle Canyon and Ringtail Ridge Natural Areas all are overrun with bastard cabbage reaching heights of five and six feet topped with tiny yellow flowers.

But it is the thistle that truly amazes. Several years ago, after a particularly wet winter, Tex's Trail at Ringtail Ridge was bordered by the tall Texas native. Butterflies and finches really enjoyed the nectar and seed respectively. The abundance of thistle this year has drawn comments on the Hays County Master Naturalist forum.

A local Master Naturalist noted noted "Texas Thistle is a biennial. It is my working hypothesis that last year's drought followed by a wet winter has given annuals and biennials a window of opportunity to flourish and rebuild their seed bank investment. I would be very surprised to see Texas thistle and the other currently abundant annuals/biennials flourish as well in a 'normal' year. In fact, they have not had such a good year while we have owned this property. And I suspect they may not do so well for many years to come. But the seeds that became this year's abundant Texas thistle didn't just appear from nowhere. They were already here waiting for the right conditions. And this year's deposit in the seed bank is likely to wait a number of years for the right conditions to occur again."

Hopefully the rains will return this month as all the natural areas are extremely dry and the danger of fire is real. Now is a good time to hike and bike the trails with the views, be mindful of the bugs, most of them beneficial, and spend some time with nature.
--Lance Jones

Edible Plant Walk in Purgatory Creek Natural Area

Holding Pattern by Randy Lenz
Spring has sprung and with it many lovely and, in some cases, edible wild plants. On Saturday the 28th at 2:30 in the afternoon, twenty-five members of Edible San Marcos explored those wild edibles in Prospect Park. The plant walk, lasted three and a half hours, covered around twenty plants, and had a casual but academically rigorous tone. The demographic was decidedly diverse: a midwife, an aquatic biologist, many gardeners and a few children.

Goers were particularly entertained to learn that our native Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) was used in the Revolutionary War as a substitute for hops in the making of beer; to hear the nefarious account of how Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) came upon its scientific name; that rabbits fed a steady diet of Turk’s Cap foliage (Malvaviscus arboreus) grow fat and happy; and concerned, but ultimately amused, to observe that after cautioning the group about the dangers of collecting Pencil Cactus fruit (Cylindropuntia leptocaulis), I emerged from the bushes covered in pernicious pokeys.

Adam Salcedo, a seasoned forager, leads plant walks about once a week.
At the close of the walk chatter abounded as phone numbers were exchanged, and desires for further expeditions expressed. Food has a funny way of bringing people together. And wild edible plants you’ve seen but overlooked a thousand times before do this exceptionally well. 
-Guest Post by Adam Salcedo

Be still in the place and know it without you

It isn't often that you see someone just enjoying our natural areas.  More correctly, many people are out in our natural areas having fun, grateful to have nature all around them as they hike, bike and maybe chat with a friend. And especially this spring with so much color and song.  You can almost hear the vibrating shades of green and waving flowers; you can almost see the bird song and whisper of the wind.  Almost.

As we like to say among our volunteers - get out and get in to it. But perhaps we should add try stopping and standing still, alone, and just soak it up.

I did this recently on Limbo Loop by the big oak that greets those headed up from the meadow to the top of the ridge that now leads back to Virgil's Way and the overpass. But near where the trail runs between the trunks on the low rock platform I hung my hammock on Sunday afternoon. My intentions where industrious: jot out some gratitude cards, plan the busy week ahead, some other tasks for which my over-stuffed fanny pack was equipped. I forgot a small pillow, nothing some improvisation can't fix. I laid back and listened. I looked up and into the canopy. I fell asleep and snoozed for a nearly an hour.

That is what is supposed to happen if you try to meditate and you are really tired. That is what nature can give you - a moment away, a moment unplugged. The squirrel and the roadrunner had time to adjust to me so they could return to their industry when I woke still very calm and feeling completely unencumbered. Watching them gave me a sense of this place without me.

Early Saturday and Sunday mornings I listen to recorded radio features. On Sunday it was "To the Best of Our Knowledge" featuring interviews under the theme Into the Woods. They reminded me of the thinking of Thoreau, Muir, Wendell Barry and Annie Dillard.

Many people reading this will believe they do not have the time, it's too hot, too something. It is more likely they have forgotten how valuable it is to get away, get out and get in to it and stay quietly, still enough to the place completely, to see what it is like without you...t.o.d.

- Todd Derkacz, SMGA Board President

Supermoon this May 5, 2012

Skywatchers take note: The biggest full moon of the year is due to arrive this weekend.
The moon will officially become full Saturday at 11:35 p.m. EDT. And because this month's full moon coincides with the moon's perigee — its closest approach to Earth — it will also be the year's biggest.
The moon will swing in 221,802 miles (356,955 kilometers) from our planet, offering skywatchers a spectacular view of an extra-big, extra-bright moon, nicknamed a supermoon.
And not only does the moon's perigee coincide with the full moon this month, but this perigee will be the nearest to Earth of any this year, as the distance of the moon's close approach varies by about 3 percent, according to meteorologist Joe Rao,'s skywatching columnist. This happens because the moon's orbit is not perfectly circular. Read More...

Several Big Cat Sightings

Photo Courtesy of the City of San Marcos
There was a bobcat sighting on Lisa Lane on April 5, and what Animal Control thinks is the same bobcat was caught at the Frost Bank on Wonderworld Drive in San Marcos on April 12. It was released in a remote part of Purgatory Creek Natural Area. Another newspaper published a photo a resident on Belvin St. took of a bobcat on their shed roof. 

In addition there have been reports of mountain lion in the Onion Creek area. Originally native to the Texas Hill Country and beyond, the cougars were killed off by the 1960's in the area. Their populations have started to migrate back towards the land. Each individual cat can have a huge range. Some worry about the dangers of the animals, but cougar attacks in Texas are very rare.

We must be aware of these animals, and work to protect greenspace in our ever-growing city, in order to provide habitat and live in harmony with them. They are majestic creatures and can help to keep a balance in our local ecosystem as a top predator.

Falling Aquifer Level Triggers Stage 1 Water Restrictions

Dry Earth, Courtesy of TPWD
The City of San Marcos will enter Stage 1 water restrictions on Monday, April 23 as the Edwards Aquifer continues to decline due to insufficient rain and high aquifer demand.

Stage 1, which limits lawn watering to once a week on designated days and other restrictions, will take effect on Monday, April 23, 2012 following the publication of a legal notice in a local newspaper.

“Even though we have experienced good rainfalls this winter and spring, it has not been enough to help the Edwards Aquifer recover from nearly two years of extreme drought conditions,” said Tom Taggart, Executive Director of Public Services.

He issued the order to implement Stage 1 Wednesday after the index well in San Antonio reached a daily level of 657.1 feet above sea level, bringing the 10 day average to 659.9.  The aquifer has been dropping at a rate of a foot or more a day recently.
The Edwards Aquifer Authority declared Stage 1 mandatory pumping reductions Wednesday for the San Antonio pool of the Edwards Aquifer. The City of San Antonio has already entered Stage 1 restrictions and the Uvalde Pool of the region is in Stage 2.

San Marcos and the San Antonio pool of the Edwards Aquifer enter the Stage 1 critical period affecting outdoor watering, car washing, swimming pools and other uses when one of three conditions occurs over a 10-day rolling average:

  1. The Edwards Aquifer falls below 660 feet on a 10-day rolling average at the J-17 index well in San Antonio 
  2. San Marcos springflow drops below 96 cubic feet per second (cfs)  
  3. Comal Springs in New Braunfels fall below 225 cfs  

San Marcos spring flows were recorded at 216 cfs and Comal springs at 276 cfs on Wednesday.

The Edwards Aquifer, the underground source of water for more than 2 million Central Texans, also produces the San Marcos and Comal Rivers. The region was under drought restrictions for much of 2011, beginning in April last year and reaching Stage 2 restrictions in the summer.

San Marcos draws about 20% of its annual water supply from the Edwards Aquifer and 80% from surface water from Canyon Lake.

Stage 1 Water Restrictions

  • Waste of water is prohibited.
  • Irrigation with sprinklers and automatic sprinkler irrigation systems is allowed only one day per week on the designated weekday between the hours of midnight to 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight.  The designated weekday is as follows:

Monday for addresses ending in 0 or 1.
Tuesday for addresses ending in 2 or 3.
Wednesday for addresses ending in 4 or 5.
Thursday for addresses ending in 6 or 7.
Friday for addresses ending in 8 or 9.

Upon written request to the conservation coordinator, customers may designate an alternate watering day, although sprinkling is allowed only one day a week.

  • Hand watering and irrigating with a soaker hose or drip irrigation system is allowed any day and any time.  Hand watering must be done using either a hand-held bucket or a hand-held hose equipped with a positive shutoff device.
  • At-home car washing is allowed only one day per week on the designated weekday, and must be done using either a hand-held bucket or a hand-held hose equipped with a positive shutoff device.
  • Swimming pools located outdoors must have at least 25% of the water surface area covered when not in use.
  • Filling of new decorative water features is prohibited.
  • Washing of impervious surfaces is prohibited unless required for health and safety use.
  • Foundation watering is allowed any day and at any time.
  • Restaurants are allowed to serve water only upon request.  
  • All other non-essential water uses must be is limited.   

The San Marcos ordinance has four critical stages based on the severity of drought conditions. Aquifer users in the San Antonio pool are required by the Edwards Aquifer Authority to reduce pumping by 20% in Stage 1.

Those violating the restrictions are subject to criminal penalties ranging from $100 to $2,000 and civil penalties up to $1,000. 

For information about current drought status and rules, please visit the website at or call Jan Klein, Conservation Coordinator, at (512) 393-8310.  Aquifer levels and springflow conditions are published daily on the EAA website at

New Park Rules Ordinace Approved

The controversial new park rules were approved by the City Council on Tuesday May 1st. While the ban on alcohol got the most press, there are many other aspects to the rule changes, such as a ban on polystyrene coolers and cups, smoking, and increases in fines for littering. The rules will go into effect in January 2013. Most of these rule changes effect activities that take place in the river side parks.