By SEAN MARLIN
Future conservation goals occupied Hays County residents and environmental stakeholders last week at a meeting in Wimberley to help develop a “Greenprint” map.
The Hays County Commissioners Court facilitated the meeting, though representatives from he Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) did most of the talking.
CAPCOG and TPL created a digital map highlighting Hays County’s top six conservation concerns determined in May 2008.
Geographical areas of concern in each of these matters were designated as such on six different maps, one for each priority. Then, the separate maps were overlaid to show a summary map containing all priorities at once.
“Based on the model as its set up, they view a map that represents all of the goals they have identified,” said Sean Moran of CAPCOG. “They interactively weight (the) goals. That will then be summed up for the entire room and those priorities will then be put in a model and the incoming data will be weighed against each other and it will create a composite draft map…”
The attendees at last week’s meeting in Wimberley prioritized the six concerns, weighted them accordingly, then generated an overall map showing the intensity of an area’s need for preservation.
The six concerns, in their weighted order:
1. Water conservation – score: 35
2. Sensitive Ecological Areas – score: 25
3. Farm and Ranch Land – score: 15
4. Park and Recreation – score: 12
5. Scenic Corridors – score: 8
6. Cultural and Historic Resources – score: 4
Represented in a color scheme ranging from white to dark red, the color was determined by the amount of conservation need in an area. Areas of overlapping conservation goals show greater color intensity. For example, if Freeman Ranch had water conservation concerns, was considered an historic site, and was a habitat for an endangered species, it would appear as dark red. Areas around I-35, with few environmental concerns according to the map, appeared almost colorless.
Water conservation was far and away the most important issue to the meeting’s attendees. However, farm and ranch land was a major concern to a vocal minority, which succeeded in raising farmland’s weight score from seven to 15.
After being awarded a $115,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration for Hays, Bastrop, and Caldwell counties, TPL and Envision Central Texas raised matching funds to facilitate the study.
“It’s about a year-long process to get to the final draft maps,” Moran said. “Then we have another year to educate both professional staff and the public on the process so they can utilize that and get it in planning processes. So, it’s about a two-year project and we are approaching, when we hit May, the end of the first year.”
A finalized Greenprint map will be available for county officials and the public as a tool to focus conservation efforts and evaluate development projects.
“I think this will influence us as we look at park land that we acquire, where we put conservation easements, and where you might approve high density development versus low density development,” said Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle).
Though the meeting constituted progress towards developing a greenprint map, commissioners expressed concern that the county’s population was unevenly represented.
“I wish that we had a broader representation from groups and geographic regions within our county,” said Hays County Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford (D-Dripping Springs). “I feel like because we were in Wimberley, there were a lot of people here from Wimberley as well as San Marcos, not a lot of people from Dripping Springs, Kyle or Buda areas. I wished there had been 200 people here instead of 40.”
The county hasn’t yet set the next meeting date to finalize the map. However, officials said, the map will never be truly finalized, as it is intended to function as a “living document.” Representatives from CAPCOG and TPL have asked to meet again in the coming months to finalize goals.Email | Print