Inform: Exploring CodeSMTX Open House, December 3

The City of San Marcos is hosting the Exploring CodeSMTX Open House on Thursday, December 3 from 10AM – 8PM at the San Marcos Activity Center Room #3 to present and display the initial strategies for CodeSMTX. These strategies highlight how the Land Development Code is being modified to meet Vision San Marcos Comprehensive Plan adopted in April 2013. During the Open House a survey will be available for participants to weigh in on whether the proposed strategies for CodeSMTX meet the Vision that was established during the Comprehensive Plan. The results of this input will be used to further shape the strategies incorporated in the draft document scheduled to be released early this Spring. During the Exploring CodeSMTX Open House community members, land owners, city employees, and professionals are encouraged to stop by to:
  • Listen to a 10 minute presentation every hour on the hour
  • Learn from the information and plans at one of 5 stations
  • Comment on the proposed CodeSMTX strategies presented
Please join us for this come & go event and help us to spread the word by passing on this email and by joining and sharing the event on the City’s facebook page. See you on December 3!

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Stay Informed: Mountain Lions

The San Marcos Natural Areas protect and provide habitat for a variety of animals. It's important to be informed and prepared when hiking and biking in natural areas.

TPWD has collected mountain lion sighting and mortality data for the past 18 years. If you have a verifiable sighting or kill a mountain lion please contact your local biologist or game warden or call Texas Parks and Wildlife headquarters at 1-800-792-1112.

Because lions are secretive by nature it is rare to see a mountain lion; however, as we encroach upon their habitat conflict is bound to occur. It is wise to know what to do if you ever find yourself confronting a mountain lion.

What To Do If You Encounter A Mountain Lion
  • Pick all children up off the ground immediately.
  • Do NOT approach the lion
  • Stay calm. Talk calmly and move slowly.
  • Face the lion and remain in an upright position.
  • Do not turn your back on the lion. Back away slowly.
  • Do NOT run.
  • Do all you can to enlarge your image. Do NOT crouch down or try to hide
  • IF the lion is aggressive, throw rocks, sticks, or anything you can get your hands on.
  • If the lion attacks, fight back. Fighting back can drive off lions.

Purgatory Creek Natural Area Remains Closed

We know Fall is the perfect time to hit the trails! SMGA is working with the City of San Marcos to assess the damage from the October flood and determine appropriate repairs at Purgatory Creek Natural Area (PCNA). As soon as we have assessed all of the damage, we will begin organizing volunteer crews to help us with the clean up.

Even though Purgatory and Prospect will remain closed for a few more weeks, Spring Lake Natural Area trails will give you your nature fix. Try the new trail head on Lime Kiln Road to go straight to the top, or park at the Meadows Center lot and hike the full length. Ringtail Ridge and Schulle Canyon trails were also damaged but some trails are still enjoyable.

TOWN Birding Hike Included Drama

  The Texas Outdoor Woman Network - San Marcos group hiked Spring Lake Natural Area on Saturday, November 14th. They were led by Wimberley resident, Jesse Huth, recently graduated from Texas A&M with his master's degree. Jesse has been birding for more than 10 years and was featured on the Texas Parks & Wildlife television program.
  Without including Spring Lake itself with its collection of aquatic birds the group managed to see 31 different species including a pyrrhuloxia, similar to a cardinal but usually found further west. The drama came as the chatter increased among the birds and a Great Horned Owl flew overhead toward the city. Two Red-shouldered Hawks increased the drama with their calls and eventual flight out of a large live oak tree. The small birds resumed their forage as we watched two different groups fly from tree to tree in the understory.
   While some trails were still muddy the group managed to hike Buckeye, Blue Stem, Porcupine, Roadrunner and Skink Link trails.-LJ
TOWN members scan the tops of the trees for the elusive birds.

Great Blue Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Crested Caracara
Eastern Phoebe
Blue-headed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Black-crested Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Bewick's Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Field Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
29.9035, -97.9396
Great-tailed Grackle
House Finch

Where did all that water come from?

San Marcos’ natural areas serve several important functions, including water quality protection, recreation, and as we experienced at the end of October, floodplain buffers. Many of San Marcos’ creeks are intermittent or dry most of the time, and it is easy to forget their importance. But for the SMGA greenway vision, these creeks are the backbone of this interconnected system of parks and natural areas.
Map courtesy San Marcos GIS Dept. Steele and DeAnda

According to the San Marcos Daily Record, City Manager Jared Miller, said "San Marcos received eight to 12 inches of rain during that 90 minutes" Friday morning October 30, 2015. The rain fell over a wide area and flowed out of the banks of the San Marcos and Blanco Rivers. This time Purgatory Creek with its many tributaries flowed to the San Marcos River, and Sink Creek did the same by way of Spring Lake. The two largest natural areas, Purgatory Creek Natural Area and Spring Lake Natural Area, both experienced powerful water flows. While these natural areas received damage and need time to recover, we are once again thankful for our San Marcos natural areas. --MH

Training and a new section of trail

Maggie uses the inclinometer.
   More than a dozen trainees learned new trail building techniques from Susan Stormer and Ryan Spates owners of S&S Trail Services. The couple are members of the Professional Trail Builders Association, former IMBA trail crew trainers and have years of trail building experience.
   Half of the trainees were local Greenbelt Alliance crew members and the balance were two city employees, Gabe and Bobby; two from Sequin; Nancy and JohnAdrian  from New Braunfels, and two from San Marcos High School, Adam and Stephen.
Class moves outside to work on the trail.
   Trail runners are the fastest growing group of trail users and we learned how to accommodate different users on the same trails. Also important was identifying whether the users were using the trails for transportation (getting from point A to point B), for exercise (runners and mountain bikers) or simply for the enjoyment of nature. Each group had different expectations and challenges. We also learned there are two different types of mountain bikers. Those that like the technical challenges of a rough and rocky trail versus those that wanted a smooth, long ride that put distance as the priority.
   While the first day was mostly classroom, learning theory, user expectations and useful signage; the second day was all application. We met at the Roadrunner trail off N. LBJ and the Spring Lake Natural Area.
   S & S recently completed a crushed limestone trail to an overlook that provides a stunning viewshed over Lime Kiln Road. The continuation of the trail was problematic because it was a hard right hairpin turn, difficult for mountain bikers but also prone to erosion in the recent rains.
   We were taught to use an inclinometer (both analog and digital) to design a better path. The half-rule that the trail is less than half the grade or side-slope was put into practice. Part of the crew worked on designing the better path and the others went to work on removing vegetation and rocks that would become the new Roadrunner trail.
   The crew made "knicks" in the trail that will encourage water run-off when the run is long and prone to water flowing down the trail. Bench cuts were made to hold the trail in place along the hillside and allow the water to flow easily off the trail. Some of the techniques were new and others were improved -- all aimed at moving the rain off the trail and into the ground.
At the end of two days -- success! 300' of new, improved trail in the Spring Lake Natural Area. (Photo at the viewshed)
   There's still a little work to be done on Roadrunner but it's open for use. The former section of 300' of trail was planted and should not be used. Working on a Sunday was a new experience and we were able to see all the trail users come out on a sunny, fall day and enjoy being outside.  -LJ

Schulle Canyon birding hike

  We searched for birds on a cold, wet morning in Schulle Canyon. Colton Robbins was the birding guide and knows the call of many different birds. As the morning warmed-up we started to see more of the birds including a pair of Hermit Thrushes chasing each other through the tree limbs and later on the trail. The usual suspects were out and about but we also saw two different species of Kinglets and a Blue-headed Vireo.
   Colton or Stephen Ramirez lead the monthly birding hikes on the first Saturday of each month through one of the San Marcos natural areas or along the river parks. Contact Stephen at to get on the eMail list for the next hike. Listing of birds seen can be found on eBird or reading previous articles in the LOOP.  --LJ
Photo of Carolina Wren by Colton Robbins

White-winged Dove  4
Eastern Phoebe  2
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  1
Carolina Chickadee  2
Carolina Wren  1
Bewick's Wren  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  4
Hermit Thrush  2
Northern Mockingbird  1
Northern Cardinal  3
House Sparrow  2

Purgatory Creek Natural Area Remains Closed

   More than a foot of rain fell on the San Marcos area Friday, October 30th. The natural areas did their job and took the brunt of the flooding. If you were on Wonder World Drive on Friday afternoon you saw the spillway in action as a raging torrent of water flowed toward town.
   The City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department closed Purgatory Creek Natural Area and all the River Parks until flood waters recede. The trails are muddy and subject to further damage if hikers and mountain bikers use the trails when they are soft and malleable.
Pedestrian bridge at Ringtail Ridge (Tex's Trail) on October 31.
   Sink Creek in the Spring Lake Natural Area kept Lime Kiln Road closed into Saturday and Travis Elementary was an island on Friday and necessitated evacuation of the students. Willow Creek flowed and flooded several city streets. Schulle Canyon natural area was flooded and suffered extensive damage to Virginia Witte Way, the crushed granite ADA trail. At Ringtail Ridge, Tex's Trail, another ADA crushed limestone trail suffered extensive erosion. A pedistrian bridge washed out and will require repairs. Prospect Park, the original natural area and part of the larger Purgatory Creek Natural Area suffered major erosion to Virgil's Trail, the ADA trail that leads toward Wonder World Drive.
   Trail crew volunteers are assessing the needs and possible mitigation solutions. When rain measured in feet comes in a few hours there is a limit as to what can be done. Trail users however can volunteer for one of our three work crews or other tasks
   The forecast for this weekend is for two additional storms with rain anticipated in the 1" to 3" level. Please use caution and common sense when enjoying the outdoors. It might be best to give the parks a rest.