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

November 1st, 2008
From the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance: Update for Nov. 1

In This Issue…

  • For Your Calendar
  • Seeking Committee Members
  • Who is John Griffis?
  • Invasives in Ringtail
  • SMGA & Texas State
  • In the News & Other Tidbits


View calendar of events


Join us for a Full Moon Friday at Ringtail get together. For those who have had a busy week and would just like to sit and relax and chat while the moon rises. We will provide the parking and parkland, sodas, ice, cups, picnic ware and a fire pit for focus. Feel to bring marshmallows or hot dogs or anything else you can cook on an open fire. Food, other beverages and seating is up to you. The whole family is invited. We will be setting up at 5 pm and won’t leave until the moon clears the trees or…who knows. If you want to strum a guitar, that’s okay too.

» SATURDAY 11/15 * HIKE * UPPER PURGATORY * 8:00-10:00 AM

SMGA will lead a hike for the San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) on the new connecting trail in Upper Purgatory. PARD representatives may accompany hikers to evaluate the trail prior to its official opening. The trails are rugged, so be sure to wear long pants and closed, strong shoes. Water, hat, sunscreen and camera are a good idea. Directions at


SMGA volunteers benefit from rewarding relationships with other SMGA members and from the knowledge that they are helping to protect a few of our Earth’s natural safe havens. In addition to help with trail building and maintenance, we are currently seeking:

  • Help with posting photos to a Naturescapes Flickr site.
  • Communications committee members to provide input on various outreach projects, including our newsletter, web site, and print materials.
  • Help with event coordination.

Email to explore the possibilities.


John Griffis is young, burly and tough. Not the type you would expect to gently relocate a shirt-exploring insect to a nearby leaf, but that’s just what I saw him do one day at Upper Purgatory. That simple act impressed me almost as much as his selfless work with troubled teens and his spirit of volunteerism.

John works for the Hays County Juvenile Justice Center (HCJC) and has been bringing students out six at time for over a year to build and maintain trails. John’s kids picked 47 bags of trash out of the Sessom Greenbelt, built roughly 75-80% of the new trail in Upper Purgatory, and spent five long, hot days last summer assisting grant-funded contractors at Ringtail Ridge, which cut down on the overhead of that project.

John writes:

The kids work very hard for a chance to get outside the walls of our facility. This is about the greatest reward I can offer them…

Most of these kids are from the inner cities and have not been off the pavement much. Considering the natural beauty of this area it’s a treasured experience for them to get out in the green spaces. Occasionally we come across hikers while we’re doing trail work and the kids really appreciate the “thank you’s” they receive. It’s not something most of them have heard a lot of in their lives.

It’s very rewarding for me to see the kids get excited about working towards improving the world around them. It’s something I hope they take with them when they graduate our program and go back to their homes.”

Working with HCJC students can be difficult. But John says, “I don’t have the words to explain how rewarding this is to be involved with.” Those of us who enjoy San Marcos’ natural areas have John and his students to thank for their efforts. John is currently looking into grants to reduce HCJC’s costs. This will allow him to bring his students out every Sunday so he can build working outdoors into a consistent part of his rewards program. Contact John at if you can suggest a funding source or assist with this effort.


Tom Watson, a retired biologist from UT, walked with SMGA members Todd Derkacz and Lance Jones through Ringtail Ridge to consider some of the options and issues related to a park that has seen a great deal of abuse: The area now known as Ringtail Ridge has served over the years as both a slaughterhouse and a ranch operation. Chinaberry and retama need to be removed before they get too strong a grab on the site.

A long-term management plan is needed as well that addresses both watershed protection and recreation, including resources that can be continuously applied to the plan. Ideally we would bring more of the site back to healthy grasslands for the sake of the aquifer, but that would require a serious commitment. David Bamberger wisely suggests to anyone interested in long-term stewardship that you never begin what you cannot maintain. SMGA will keep an eye on the situation at Ringtail and hopes to work with the City of San Marcos to develop a site restoration and maintenance plan.


SMGA will be working with the Texas State geography and biology departments and the City of San Marcos to conduct an inventory of biota at Purgatory Creek Park. (A similar inventory was conducted last year at Spring Lake Preserve.) An inventory at Upper and Lower Purgatory comes just in time, since the number of visitors to Purgatory is increasing. Other impacts to the area include changing species and the climate.

A geography course on nature and tourism will focus class projects on SMGA and the Lions Club. Students will select an aspect of our mission and provide advice and consultation. Thanks to Jim Kimmel and Amy Kirwin for inviting SMGA to participate.



The Hays County Commissioners Court reached one of its more satisfying moments Tuesday, agreeing unanimously to complete negotiations with the Dahlstrom family west of Buda for a conservation easement, which, commissioners believe, will stand as the center piece of a successful 2007 parks bond.

The court agreed, in principal, to pay the Dahlstroms $4.9 million to conserve 2,200 acres of Dahlstrom Ranch property near the intersection of FM 1626 and RM 967. The county will spend another $350,000 to fund trails and enhancements to the property’s natural features.


Breaking a self-imposed moratorium on dispensing what’s left of $30 million in parks and open space bond funds, Hays County commissioners on Tuesday awarded $266,000 to the Dripping Springs Youth Sports Association for ball fields.

San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance

President: Todd Derkacz
Treasurer / Trail Crew Lead: Sheila Torres-Blank
Secretary / Conservation Committee Chair: Sherwood Bishop
Communications Chair / Newsletter Editor: Ann Jensen
Stewardship Committee Chair: Mary Waters
Organization Committee Chair: Maggie Hutchins-Wagner
Grant Coordinator: Chris North

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