San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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November 18th, 2008
From the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance: Update for Nov. 17

In This Issue…

  • Purgatory Trees Saved
  • Ringtail Ridge Trail Continues to Improve
  • Hays County Greenprint
  • Blue Goat Donation
  • Bike Bits: Tire Pressure
  • In the News


View calendar of events

» SATURDAY 12/6/08 | RINGTAIL RIDGE TRAIL BUILDING | 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. (8 a.m. first timers)

» SATURDAY 12/20 | TRAIL BUILDING | LOCATION TBA | 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. (8 a.m. first timers)

Email to receive location, directions, and last-minute weather cancellations. Gloves, hard shoes, eyewear required. Water bottle, long pants, hat recommended. We supply tools and bug repellent.

» WEDNESDAY 11/19/08 | SMGA BOARD MEETING | 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Members welcome; let us know you’re coming and we will get a meeting packet to you.

» SATURDAY 11/22/08 | SCHULLE CANYON HIKE | 9:30 -10:30 a.m.

This half-mile, family- and kid-friendly hike is perfect for toddlers, preschoolers, and jogging strollers. We’ll follow the kids along the granite trail and stop halfway to let them explore. Bring water and snacks for the kids and wear long pants. Find directions here.

» SATURDAY 11/22/08 | BLANCO SHOALS HIKE | 8:30 -10:30 a.m.

Trails can be rugged and grasses long, so wear long pants and closed, strong shoes. Water, hat, sunscreen and camera are a good idea. Find directions here.


Huge oaks, elms, and other native trees within a 60-foot swath along the route of the Wonder World Drive extension would have been cleared if not for the efforts of city council leaders and conservation advocates. When the potential loss came to light, city staff used an extensive map of tree locations, created by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife during its environmental survey, to identify about 100 trees along the roadway. Preservation of these trees became part of a change order approved by the city council last week. Spending the extra time and money to preserve trees and the habitat they provide in the Purgatory greenspace reflects the values of the San Marcos community and its leaders. Thanks to those who supported this effort.


by Lance Johnson

A combination of brawn and brain works at improving the Ringtail Ridge trail located on Ranch Road 12 behind the Dakota Ranch Apartments. The former Hughson Meat Packing plant was converted to 45 acres of open space following an agreement with developer Randall Morris and the City of San Marcos in July 2001.

The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance (SMGA) has done much of the heavy lifting with the city’s support. SMGA volunteers built their first trails here, with two miles of unmarked narrow trail primarily for mountain bikers. Over the years hikers, naturalists, photographers and others were drawn to the oaks, persimmons, mesquite and cactus stands that cover large portions of the greenspace.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department awarded the City of San Marcos and SMGA a National Trails Grant in the amount of $40,087 in August 2007. That project is mostly complete, with the construction of a one-half mile Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible trail, parking lot improvements, and an interpretive kiosk. Environmental Survey Consultants did the primary grant work and the City of San Marcos did the parking lot improvements.

SMGA volunteers improved the trails within the greenspace, logging more than 150 hours of labor on Thursday mornings and odd Saturdays. Their efforts resulted in wider trails and the removal of obstructions.

Todd Derkacz, SMGA president, plans to return the property from ranch land to native Texas wild plants. Tom Watson, a retired university biologist from Driftwood, surveyed the property for invasive species on September 22. Chinaberry has gained a foothold on the property and will be removed. Thinning the Ashe juniper, which is indigenous but pervasive, will aid in watershed protection, a major purpose for a greenspace. “A long-term management plan with reasonable goals is the objective,” said Derkacz.

Adding to the brainpower was a bird survey conducted by Wimberley resident, Jesse Huth, on October 17. The fall migration aided with several uncommon bird sightings for the greenspace. Huth identified 25 different species, including both the Lincoln and Savannah sparrows and the orange-crowned warbler. Huth is a veteran of several years’ participation in the Great Texas Birding Classic, an annual event in late April along the Texas Gulf Coast.

“It isn’t the binoculars; it’s the ears that do the hunting. I suppose I’ve always known that, but for all the hours I’ve spent in our natural areas I don’t believe I’ve ever heard so much going on,” said Derkacz.

“Ringtail is a great place for first timers birding, with its mix of field, brush, juniper breaks, fence lines, and woodland areas.” Tom Watson pointed out that the straight line of chinaberry trees is probably due to birds sitting on a fence line.

Other projects currently underway at Ringtail Ridge include additional mountain bike trails, a test planting of native grasses and wildflowers by Camp Fire USA members, installation of appropriate signage in the kiosk and a wildlife viewing stand. Find directions to Ringtail Ridge and a trail map here.


We reported in the past on the Hays County Greenprint being conducted by Envision Central Texas (ETC). Download an overview of Greenprinting. The Hays County effort kicked off at a workshop in San Marcos last May. ETC reports that similar workshops were held in Bastrop and Caldwell Counties in October, and that representatives of all the counties within the larger regional effort also met in October to help ensure that the goals and criteria identified at the county workshops were effectively defined, the appropriate data will be gathered, and the input into the Greenprint model is accurate and current. Stakeholder meetings will continue into early 2009 to bring the regional effort into greater coordination and allow for the lessons learned in one county to enhance the process in neighboring counties.


The World Dance Festival held in October at the Price Center benefited three local charities, one of them being SMGA. We received the highest number of donations by 1 or 2 votes and that garnered a cool $100. If you are looking for a place to relax with a book, a scone and cup of French roast, head for the Blue Goat.


by Gordon Sabin

As SMGA volunteers add miles to local trails, interest in bicycling to them and on them increases. So here’s the first in a series of tips for all you on- and off-road bikers out there. The manufacturer’s recommended range of tire pressure is stamped on the sidewall of the tire. The higher number is the maximum psi and the lower is the minimum. Lower tire pressure increases traction on loose or unstable surfaces and provides some shock absorption on rough surfaces, such as those encountered on trails. Lower tire pressure requires more effort and is more susceptible to common punctures than higher pressure. Higher pressure makes the tire roll more easily on smooth surfaces, thus making pedaling easier, and higher pressure is less prone to the more common causes of flat tires. One can achieve a considerable variance in riding characteristics by experimenting with tire pressure.

Gordon Sabin offers advice and training to local bikers and can be contacted at




Jacob’s Well, the famous natural spring known to be the longest underwater cave in Texas, stopped flowing for the second time in recorded history on the evening of October 20th. “The lack of rainfall and the continued pumping of the aquifer to serve local water supply has caused Jacob’s Well to cease flowing,”


More than a decade of hard work by the Edwards Aquifer Authority could be washed down the drain by a recent 4th Court of Appeals opinion. And a process being conducted by groundwater districts across the state to establish desired aquifer levels over the next 50 years is also in jeopardy.

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