Save the Date: SMGA annual meeting January 12

Save the date! The SMGA Annual Meeting will take place on Sunday, January 12, at the City Park Rec. Hall from 3-5 pm. We will review the 2013 accomplishments and discuss our plans for 2014.

Please join us! Email us at for more information. All are welcome to attend.

People and Nature Growing Together…With Your Help

People enjoy and are grateful for our natural areas for so many different reasons: recreation, ecological, aesthetic, economic, flood safety, water quality. The list is long when you compile what each person appreciates about their relationship with these magnificent places or the benefits they yield. The volunteers at SMGA are always on the lookout for opportunities to grow our natural areas and to interconnect them.

We believe strongly that our community is so much better served when we conserve and care for those natural places that are best left alone. Our understanding of our complete dependence on the living world should be reflected in the way we build our city. Mixing our built environment with living landscapes is good for people and good for nature.

Our community has made good progress so far. In fact, we are becoming the envy of our neighboring cities as they realize they failed to save the natural resources and places that make cities livable. Good job San Marcos! But there is much more to do because this city is growing rapidly.

SMGA pursues its mission with volunteers, membership dues and donations.

We need your help to get the resources we need to keep up. We know there are many causes that pull at our conscience for financial help or a bit of our time. But please consider that joining SMGA or making a donation will literally change the landscape forever and that many, many people will benefit over time.

If you like clean cool water, if you enjoy fresh cooler air, if you delight in seeing wildlife or wildflowers, if you benefit from the visitors who come to be in our natural areas, if you take comfort in knowing you are a short walk away from a natural area then please consider becoming a regular member of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance.

For many of us the beauty of the river and the landscape was part of our decision to call this home. We are the key to the quality of life in San Marcos, of people and nature growing together. Let’s save those places while we can. Be part of the landscape with your tax deductible contribution by following this link.

- Todd Derkacz, SMGA President

Healthy City Task Force, Green Belt Alliance Promote Wellness

Healthy City Task Force, Green Belt Alliance Promote Wellness
City of San Marcos NEWS
630 E. Hopkins
San Marcos, Texas 78666

November 8, 2013

Contact: Trey Hatt, Communications Specialist, 512.393.8242
Melissa Millecam, Director of Communications/ Intergovernmental Relations

Healthy City Task Force, Green Belt Alliance Promote Wellness

A unique collaboration between the Healthy City Task Force and the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance has resulted in Fitscription, a program to promote wellness and physical activity opportunities using outdoor green space and natural areas in San Marcos.

With the participation of local doctors, nurses, therapists and the like, community members of all ages and abilities will be provided a Fitscription Plan indicating the type of activity, number of minutes per day, and number of days per week. The Fitscription Plan includes a map of the San Marcos parks and natural areas.

Various organizations and individuals have been involved in planning this initiative, which was initially presented to the Healthy City Task Force by the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance. The idea was modified for San Marcos and to mesh with the Healthy City Task Force mission to promote fitness and nutrition for a healthy San Marcos.

The Healthy City Task Force was formed in January 2010 by the San Marcos City Council to address the overweight and obesity issue in the youth of San Marcos. Today, the Healthy City Task Force includes 15 member organizations, and many more individuals interested in forward momentum toward a healthier community.

SMHS Rattler Ridge Trail: New Programs and Construction Update

April 2013 Trail Work Day at Rattler Ridge
Greetings from San Marcos High School and its Rattler Ridge Trail! This trail began with the hardwork and dedication of SMHS students and faculty almost 4 years ago. It continues to serve as an outdoor classroom and an integral part of the Outdoor Adventure Education course. SMGA was, and continues to be, an important partner in the endeavor, providing trail tool support, trail work training, and volunteers.  Despite the upcoming construction for the new SMHS facilities, we are happy to report that much of trail will remain intact and that many of the larger trees will be spared. We will have re-routes to work on, but we look forward to the opportunity to improve the trail experience. And, just in time!

This coming spring the SMHS Mountain Bike Team takes to the trails on our campus and in the greenspaces of San Marcos in preparation to compete in five races throughout Texas. Members of the team will learn not only proper mountain bike riding techniques but also trail etiquette and environmental stewardship. We want to thank you for providing trails in the San Marcos natural areas for the students to practice on and for your continued support.

For more information on the SMHS Mountain Biking Team or Rattler Ridge Trail, contact Adam Wagner at

Mountain Biking Video at PCNA

Our Fall 2013 intern, Kevin Kutras shared this video on Facebook. If you haven't had a chance to enjoy it, take a couple of minutes to watch the video of Cody Ard biking through Prospect Park and Purgatory.

Trail Etiquette: Keep Dogs on a Leash

You may have had the experience of walking along trail and being met by a dog. This kind of encounter occurs in a variety of ways. Small children are sometimes jolted into terror as a large four-legged creature friskily rounds the bend and lopes on over to get a sniff and maybe a lick. Scaling the child's experience so adults can understand what it might be like requires us to imagine a dog about 7 feet tall galloping toward us with unclear intentions.

Sometimes we hear or see the otherwise well behaved pet running at full speed through the brush and woods in pursuit of some of the wildlife, madly sticking its snout into a scent that will guide it to the instinctual prey. Domestic animals are usually ill-equipped to be in nature and so they are often surprised by dangers like snakes, belligerent wildlife, thorns or some other hazard. Some pets have been killed by the hazards.

But, all too often, they get lost.

Losing a dog in our natural areas is very common. In almost every case the owners will tell you their dog normally always stays close by. But dogs are easily tempted. It is not uncommon to hear an owner shouting out the name of their best friend over and over as the sun seeks the horizon. The next day a poster appears on the kiosk. The requirement by the city, the strong suggestion by SMGA, to have your dog always on a leash is not just to keep them from terrorizing children and wildlife, but to protect them from the hazards and keep them from losing their way.

I came upon a small dog marching down Dante. It politely passed me as if either leading its master who was too slow to keep up or trying to catch up. I never a saw an owner pass, but I was not about to interfere. It came past me again aiming for Grandma’s Oak only this time it would not go any farther than a line of sight on me, waiting until I caught up then moving again. Clearly it was lost and looking for its master. I tried to get it to come and exchange salutations and share some water but it would have none of that. It eventually turned right on Paraiso, I was going straight on Dante. Eventually I heard the sing song of an owner calling for Penny. I facilitated the reuniting. The owner was a bit embarrassed. Penny was pleased to be thrown over the owner’s shoulder. Penny’s master assured me she always stays close, but it looks like a leash will be needed from now on. A close call.

Please keep your dog, big or small, on leash, whether you are a regular visitor or occasional, whether you are a runner or a slow hiker, on a short walk or long. Take water for your friend and yourself and know how to find your way in and out of our magnificent Nature.

Picking up after your pet? That's another story...t.o.d.

Birding at Blanco Shoals natural area

  The sun was just rising as Stephen Ramirez led six of us on one of our most productive birding hikes on November 2, 2013.  The Blanco River had flooded two days earlier and it was still quite muddy. Tree limbs and other debris clung to the barbed wire fencing and lower limbs of the pecan trees.

Viewing across the Blanco River at one of the several hawks we saw.
We walked to the river and immediately saw woodpeckers flitting about and a red-tailed hawk perched high in a dead tree. There were many of the expected species for Central Texas: white-winged dove, mourning dove, great-tailed grackle, house finch, lesser goldfinch, European starling, Eastern phoebe, rock dove, blue jay, northern cardinal, northern mockingbird, black vulture, red-winged blackbird, black-crested titmouse and Carolina wren, many in abundance. We were also treated with no tricks, twice, to seeing a wood duck flying along the river, a green kingfisher, a ruby-crowned kinglet and an orange-crowned warbler in the trees.
  Woodpeckers were out in abundance with sightings of red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker and the yellow shafted northern flicker most common. Hawks made their appearance by standing vigil high in the trees. We all got see a juvenile red-shouldered hawk, a red-tailed hawk and an American kestrel through the spotting scope that Stephen provided.
  A large owl flew past but too briefly to get a proper identification. We also saw a large number of mosquitoes but they did not seem to bite, simply annoy.
  In addition to the downed trees and limbs we saw a river otter in the Blanco and recent evidence of feral hogs in the park.
  The birding hikes take place on the first Saturday of each month.  Stephen has been leading a dozen or so to birding sites around San Marcos. He can be contacted at Blanco Shoals natural area is a City of San Marcos property at the end of River Ridge Parkway.  There are no trails or amenities at the present time. Read a full description on the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance website under the 'Natural Areas' tab.

PCNA Featured in the TPL October Newsletter

Purgatory Creek Natural Area (PCNA) was the subject of an article in The Trust for Public Land's October newsletter. Check out this article to learn how the TPL is helping to expand the PCNA.

What's missing in the photo?

SMGA photo by Dick McBride
  Missing in the group photo is the stand of prickly pear cactus that used to cover the ground they are standing on.  Actually two stands were removed and placed on the concrete slab to prevent re-growth and rooting of the persistant native plant.  The photo was taken at Ringtail Ridge October 11, 2013 which is the site of restoration projects by Hays County Master Naturalists.  Wildflower seeds were planted in the bare ground.
  The native cactus grows in abundance at the former Hughson Meat Packing property.  The two-and-half miles of trails offer both ADA (wheel chair accessible) and natural single-track opportunities for mountain biking, trail running and hiking.  The 45 acre natural area has five different trails. Spring and Fall are especially good for bird watching and nature photography as many different wildflowers and native grasses burst on to the scene.
  Pictured are (l. to r.) Kevin Kutras, Lance Jones, Mimi Boettler, Jean McMeans, Leah Laszewski and Donna Browing.  Not shown Ronnie Borden.

Birding walk October 5, 2013

Guest leader -- Jonny Scalise

Spring Lake dock April 2013
October's bird walk is here and for the first time I am having a guest leader fill my shoes.  Jonny Scalise is a good friend of mine and is a very knowledgeable biologist.  He will be guiding you down the San Marcos River starting at City Park at 7:45 a.m. in hopes of catching a range of migrating birds.  Do not forget to look high in the sky this weekend because you do not want to miss migrating hawks, pelicans, cormorants, and more. Please be courteous to Jonny and I wish you all good luck and happy birding.
Stephen Ramirez

Calling all artists -- enduring art project

City of San Marcos and Texas State University Launch Public Art Competition to Protect Rivers

The City of San Marcos and Texas State University are sponsoring an art competition seeking a design for storm drain manhole covers that will be installed on all new City-owned storm drains.

The contest is intended to raise awareness of water quality issues and the impact that pollutants, dumped into city storm drains, can cause to the San Marcos River and other tributaries.  Stormwater pollution, such as oil from roads and parking lots, lawn fertilizer, pet waste, cigarette butts and construction sediment, directly impacts our rivers, wildlife, and quality of life.
PUBLIC ART - The City of San Marcos and Texas State University will initiate a design contest for stormwater manhole covers, similar to the contest completed by the City of Springfield, MO, to educate the community about stormwater pollution. (Photo courtesy of City of Springfield, MO)
  “This art contest is an innovative way to engage and educate our community about the impacts of pollutants in our storm drains,” said Sabas Avila, Assistant Director of Public Services-Transportation. “Public art is a great way to spread this message.”

The contest is open to people who live, work, or attend school in San Marcos, including Texas State students. Contestants’ designs should be uniquely created for San Marcos and show how protecting our local waters begins at the storm drain. Designs should be original, black-and-white art that fits in a six-to eight-inch circle.   

Designs will be accepted until Nov. 1, 2013.  A panel of judges will select the top four winning designs based on the relevance to the intended water quality message and on overall appearance.

 For more information, contact Shawn Wolfshohl at the City of San Marcos Transportation Division, 512.393.8036 or Texas State University Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management Department, 512.245.3616.

Full contest rules, entry forms and information can be found at

Reprinted from the City of San Marcos, TX website --  Trey Hatt

CommunicationsSpecialist, 512.393.8242

9th Annual Naturescapes

Sponsored by the Hill Country Photography Club and Hays County Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists the contest was open to resident and visiting photographers of all ages. The unique beauty and value of green spaces in San Marcos inspired the first Naturescapes Photography Contest, 9 years ago, this year, photographers were encouraged to roam farther afield to natural areas throughout Hays, Blanco, Comal, Guadalupe, Caldwell, and Travis Counties.   

c Zarella Michael
Goals of the contest and exhibit include increasing public awareness of the importance of protecting our natural world and giving photographers at all levels of experience a chance to capture, share, and receive recognition for beautiful and inspiring images.   This year 186 entries were submitted and 60 selected.  A $100 prize will be awarded for Best in Show, $75 for the best Youth Category photo, and $75 for the best Natural Waterscape photo. Up to four $50 Awards of Excellence will be presented for the next most outstanding photographs. Additional Awards of Merit will be presented at the discretion of the contest juror.

This year's contest juror was Texas Parks & Wildlife Department staff photographer, Chase Fountain. His photography has been featured in many publications including National Geographic Explorer Traveler, Men's Journal, Tide, Prime, Texas Highways and Texas Monthly as well as the Associated Press. He graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in 1993 with a Bachelor of Applied arts and Sciences degree specializing in photojournalism and fine art photography. 
To complement the Naturescape exhibit, the Hill Country Photography Club sponsors an annual "exhibit within the exhibit' . — best entries from their member photographers submissions in response to a theme.  This year's theme is "Icons" and the entries cover a lot of territory.  From the ubiquitous Golden Arches in the sunset  to the Broken Spoke, the Golden Gate Bridge to the Statue of Liberty and iconic cultural images far beyond.  

c Scott Mitchell
Elusive dragonflies and hummingbirds flitting through  color-filled moments of wild grass and flowers—Naturescapes reminds us of nature's fragile freshness. Portraits of ancestor trees and spanning vistas— Naturescapes reminds us of  nature's commitment through generations.

The public is invited to attend the reception and awards ceremony for the 9th Annual "Naturescapes" Photography Contest and "Icons" exhibition Saturday, September 21, 5-7 p.m. at the Walkers' Gallery in the San Marcos Activity Center.  The Wimberley Friends of Music will provide musical entertainment.

Exhibits at the Walkers' Gallery are sponsored by the San Marcos Area Arts Council and the City of San Marcos with support from the San Marcos Arts Commission.

-- Linda Kelsey-Jones