San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

Everything is set for the start of construction on the three-mile Wonder World Drive extension. Except for answers to questions about the extent of an Archaic Era archaeological site that lies in the congestion relief route’s path.

by JAN VAN ZANDT

The Wonder World Extension is scheduled to be built over an area of land that people have known for years held Native American artifacts. It is said to be one of the best preserved Archaic-era Native American sites in Texas. The City of San Marcos contracted the Archeology Department of Texas State University to do their pre-construction archaeological surveys.

Cities and other government entities have their construction schedules and in the name of progress and modern convenience they would prefer to have the schedules met on time. So, what happens, if in the course of the university, survey, they should happen to find something of greater significance than artifacts, but the city does not wish to allow the time for a more in-depth survey; not even if the survey would be paid for by a third party?

The last thing anyone who is truly concerned with historic preservation would want, would be for archeological site information to be made public and the site looted. Regardless, when you have a lot of people working on a site, information gets out. I heard a few weeks ago that 5,000 year old human remains had been found on the Wonder World site, but then I was dismayed to hear the city did not want to allow TxDOT to do a more thorough archeological investigation on the site. Why not? What is more important – construction time and schedules or archeological survey time and our heritage?

When I asked several people about this, I was amazed at the ricochet path my question traveled and the non-answer answers I received.

In 1966 Texas passed the Historic Preservation Act which protected sites, made it mandatory for the evaluation of properties for historical/cultural resources, and created a committee to control excavation on state lands. The law established a need for historical archeology which could contribute to the evaluation of historical sites because archeological surveys could contribute a great deal to the understanding of people who were here in ages past.

In the last few years, with the surge of economic growth, Texas has seen a vast amount of residential, business and roadway development and as a result, large amounts of archaeological information have been lost forever. Historical sites are being destroyed at an astounding pace. Continued development appears imminent during the upcoming years, and the losses to the Texas archaeological record will be enormous. Once a site is bulldozed and built or paved over, the information the ground once held is gone forever.

For the last several years I have served as the Downtown Representative on the San Marcos Historic Preservation Commission. The Wonder World Extension has nothing to do with the historic districts in town. I asked my questions as a citizen and a downtown business owner. I do not want to endanger an archeological site and I certainly have no wish to stand in the way of the city “progress” but I do want to help preserve for the future some part of what we have left of the past. I would like to feel confident that the people of the City of San Marcos who are in charge of the city’s progress want those same things.

Jan Van Zandt, a San Marcos resident, is chair of the San Marcos Historical Preservation Commission. She represents downtown on the city council-appointed body.

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