Looking to the Future

SMGA Friends,

Within the past month the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance sent the San Marcos Mayor, City Council, and Planning and Zoning Commission requests to support two initiatives to 1) to fund a Natural Area Manager position to serve as the key manager for the over 1,000 acres of San Marcos natural areas and 2) to support the addition of a Greenways and Trails Master Plan in the update of the Transportation Master Plan that is currently underway.
We feel that both items are essential to a sustainable and healthy trail and natural area greenway system.

We need your voice, so please email Mayor_Council_Info@sanmarcostx.gov and ask the Mayor and City Council for their support!

Hope to see you on the trail (when it dries out a bit)!

Maggie Hutchins
SMGA President

Natural Area Manager

20 April 2015
Mayor and Council,

The board of directors of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance (SMGA) recommends the City of San Marcos consider creating a position for a professionally trained Natural Area Manager.

Natural areas and greenways serve our community by enhancing San Marcos’ economic, environmental and public health and welfare. Currently the city has no one who is exclusively designated to manage the over 1,000 acres of natural areas for watershed, recreation, habitat, education, and public safety functions. These areas must be managed in conformance with a comprehensive natural areas management plan and in compliance with funder expectations. This task requires a professional who has the training to understand ecological systems; the authority to manage limited city, donor, and volunteer resources; and the ability to communicate with the public through outreach and education programs.

A natural area land manager will:
 Ensure compliance with grant requirements;
 Draft, seek adoption of, implement, and as needed, revise a comprehensive natural areas management plan;
 Monitor and manage recreation activities to ensure minimal impact and maximum experience for visitors;
 Serve as an outreach coordinator to educate, interpret, and inform visitors about the value and significance of the natural areas;
 Organize and coordinate staff and volunteer activities to ensure the most effective use of resources;
 Regularly inspect and monitor conditions throughout the natural areas for vegetation, wildlife, habitats, and other protected elements;
 Address issues of urban interface including boundary protection, fire control, and other public safety needs;
 Monitor and control invasive, non-native vegetative and animal species;
 Propagate desired species and enhance habitats to increase diversity and health of ecosystems;
 Facilitate research initiatives that will help guide the land management.

The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance has a team of volunteers who currently provide over 2,000 hours per year towards natural area stewardship. SMGA members and volunteers include master naturalists and biologists as well as hikers, bikers, and bird watchers. We lead hikes and build trails, and like to brag about San Marcos’ natural areas. We are all certain it is time for a professionally trained manager to protect these spectacular and unique places.

We fully appreciate the difficulties in planning a budget for our city, but we are concerned that the lack of proper management of the natural areas will lead to more serious and perhaps irreversible problems in the future. San Marcos’ natural areas provide a vast number of benefits for the community and clearly deserve a staffed position dedicated to its stewardship.

Thank you for your service to our community.

Maggie Hutchins,

Cc: Jared Miller, City Manager
Rodney Cobb, Executive Director Community Services
Steve Parker, Assistant City Manager / Chief Financial Officer

Greenways and Trails Master Plan

May 12, 2015

Christopher Wood, Chairperson
Kenneth Ehlers, Vice-Chairperson
Angie Ramirez, Brian Olson, Amy Stanfield, Jim Garber, Travis Kelsey, Shawn Dupont,
 Saul Gonzales, Commissioners
Planning and Zoning Commission
City of San Marcos
630 East Hopkins Street
San Marcos, TX 78666

Dear Chairperson Wood and Commissioners:

I am writing on behalf of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance (SMGA) to ask you to recommend to the City Council the addition of a Greenways and Trails Master Plan (GTMP) in the update of the Transportation Master Plan that is now under way.

Vision San Marcos: A River Runs Through Us calls for the creation and implementation of a “Greenways Master Plan”. Greenways will further several goals and objectives of the Comp Plan, including transportation (alternatives to motor vehicles), tourism and economic development (drawing visitors to the city; encouraging trail-related business opportunities), health (promoting outdoor exercise), environment (protecting natural resources, enhancing water quality), recreation (providing connections between parks, natural areas, activity nodes and employment centers), and public safety (enhancing watersheds for flood mitigation).

The Preferred Scenario Map includes a layout of greenways across the community that integrate with existing and planned roadways, bikeways and pedestrian facilities. Some follow drainageways, others parallel existing and planned roadways, and others traverse parks and natural areas. In addition to refining this layout, the GTMP can address trail categories and standards and analyze right-of-way needs. This is a unique opportunity to plan for an interconnected system of trails in our community. We are willing to assist the staff and the Transportation Plan consultants to support the GTMP in any way we can.
SMGA envisions a greenway system that connects everyone in our community, strengthens neighborhoods and businesses, and draws visitors and new residents; in short, a greenway system that sets San Marcos apart from other central Texas communities. We strongly believe the GTMP will enhance the quality of life in San Marcos.

Thank you for considering this request.

Maggie Hutchins-Wagner

Cc: Mayor Daniel Guerrero and City Council Members
Jared Miller, Laurie Moyer, Shannon Mattingly, Rodney Cobb
Rashed Islam, HDR Inc.

Shout out to Core Running

  A big thank you goes to Core Running for their generous contribution of $500 to the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance. Dave Moody, owner, and Daniel Chidester made the presentation at their store on the Square in downtown San Marcos May 13th. Trail crew members removed obstacles prior to the January races in the Purgatory Creek Natural Area. On race day trail crew manned checkpoints and water stations. More than 150 runners participated in either the 5K or 10 mile races held January 17th.
(l. to r.) Dave Moody, Todd Derkacz, Mark Taylor, Bill Adams, Joel Barks, Daniel Chidester, Lance Jones, and Melissa Nicewarner Daly.

May birding hike on Lime Kiln Road

  Fourteen birders met at the new Spring Lake natural area parking lot at 685 Lime Kiln Road for a short drive to the River Foundation's property. The May 2 hike was very productive as we sighted 35 different bird species, many not seen on previous hikes.
Group photo by Lance Jones
  Led by Stephen Ramirez and assisted by Colton Robbins, who provided the list and several of the photos, the hike lasted a little over one-and-a-half hours. Dew covered much of the grasses and the early morning sun provided dramatic lighting. Highlights of the birding included a juvenile Red-tailed hawk perched on a high post in the middle of the field. Two Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flying together directly overhead our group. And most photographed, Dickcissel singing away atop a mesquite tree. They were almost as abundant as the doves.
  The monthly hikes are held on the first Saturday of each month and last less than two hours. Contact Stephen@birdsiview.org to be notified of the next birding adventure.  --LJ

35 bird species

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  2
Northern Bobwhite  3     2 seen, 1 heard
Great Blue Heron  3     Flyover
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks by Colton Robbins

Black Vulture  3
Turkey Vulture  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Killdeer  1     Flyover
White-winged Dove  16
Mourning Dove  7
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  3
Chimney Swift  2
Black-chinned Hummingbird  4
Crested Caracara  1
Ash-throated Flycatcher  4
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher  1
American Crow  1
Barn Swallow  1
Carolina Chickadee 
Black-crested Titmouse  4
Verdin  2
Canyon Wren  1
Bewick's Wren  3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
Northern Mockingbird  4
European Starling  3
White-crowned Sparrow  1
Summer Tanager  1
Northern Cardinal  4
Blue Grosbeak 

Painted Bunting  5
Dickcissel  12    
Great-tailed Grackle  5
Brown-headed Cowbird  4
House Finch  2

Lesser Goldfinch  1

Invasive Removal at Spring Lake Natural Area

Removing Malta star-thistle at Spring Lake
  The downside to all the Spring rains are the abundance of invasive, non-native plants that are crowding-out the wildflowers and becoming a monoculture. A prime example is the bastard cabbage also known as turnip-weed or common giant mustard. The large lobed leaves shade out all the plants below its five foot height. It is considered a noxious-weed in Texas.
  Another invasive is the Malta star-thistle. It is native to Europe and North Africa. The plant spreads by seed and is insect pollinated. Currently it is gaining ground at the Spring Lake natural area and probably arrived on construction equipment.
  Master Naturalists are working the area above the new parking area on Sunday afternoons pulling the plants by the roots. Replacing the invasive with natives is a goal of the project and recently a wildflower mixture was introduced.--LJ         [Information from Texas Invasives.org]