A Look Back at 2021
SESSOM CREEK PROJECT
SMGA has continued to work with the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) staff to restore the landscape in Sessom Creek Park. Most recently, crews have been spreading grass seed and seeds of some forbs and wildflowers.
In December, San Marcos’ hike and bike community came out to give SMGA a helping hand installing trail signs in the Natural Areas. The volunteers joined the crew at Lower Purgatory and helped build two new cages with posts and refit two existing cages with new posts. With their help, SMGA is closer to updating almost 40 trail marker signs in the Purgatory Natural Area!
NEW INTERPRETIVE SIGN IN LOWER PURGATORY
As the project for his summer internship in anthropology, Texas State student Ian Long created an interpretive sign to be placed at the flood control dam in Lower Purgatory. With a group of SMGA members—including Todd Derkacz, Greg Moore, Rich Earl, and Susan Hanson—serving as advisors, he created a beautiful panel that will be installed by Scott Henize, Todd Derkacz, and Larry Hanson.
THE GREAT EXPERIMENT
Team Flora worked on three 50×50’ plots in Prospect Park. Originally, one was solarized, one was mulched, and one was cut bare. Only solarization worked to keep Johnson grass and KR bluestem at bay. Learning along the way (and with good advice from the experts), the team ultimately solarized all three plots. The idea is to “bake out” the seed bank of invasives and re-seed the plots with native grasses and wildflowers. Periodically, the plastic covering must be removed to allow the team to water the soil.
TALES ON THE TRAILS
Tales on the Trails is now year ‘round! The City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department and Community Action, Inc. are setting up a new story each month on Virginia Witte Way, a half-mile accessible trail in Schulle Canyon Natural Area. Learn more about Tales on the Trails at sanmarcostx.gov/youth.
WORKING WITH SMCISD
Thanks to the leadership of SMGA member Monique Tschurr and SMCISD teacher Dylan Jones, local elementary school students are making great use of the natural areas. Jones frequently leads his students and their families on hikes. He also shares logistics and models what his outings look like for his fellow educators.
WALKING STICK PRESENTATION
We couldn’t meet in person and make this presentation at our annual meeting, but in April, walking sticks were presented to Garry Merritt (bottom photo), CEO of the Great Springs Project, and Mark Taylor (top photo), longtime SMGA volunteer and former board president. The walking stick is an annual award recognizing both an individual and a community partner that have supported SMGA’s goals in the past year. The presentation was held outdoors at Wake the Dead.
RESPONDING TO WEATHER
Whether it’s due to Snowmageddon or a heavy autumn rain, the trails are impacted by weather year ‘round. Broken branches washed out bridges, eroded surfaces, and accumulated duff—all must be addressed by the trail crew.
10 YEARS OF BIRDING
In April, Stephen Ramirez was honored by SMGA for his 10 years of leading monthly bird hikes, which take place every first Saturday. Here he is shown receiving a thank-you gift from SMGA member Lance Jones, a photo of a great egret taken by Susan Hanson at Spring Lake. This image was chosen because it represents Stephen’s passions for both birding and the protection of the San Marcos River. Below, Stephen is guiding the October bird hike.
ANNUAL MEETING GOES VIRTUAL
Thanks to COVID, we spent a lot of time on Zoom this year. Board meetings, committee meetings, even the annual meeting—almost all of them took place on Zoom. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, the video for the 2021 meeting did not transmit well. If you missed it, you can find it on SMGA’s YouTube channel.
IMPROVEMENTS ON THE TRAILS
Keep your eyes open for more improvements in the natural areas in 2022. Volunteers will continue to install new trail markers, as well as to build new benches, such as the one Larry Hanson recently completed.
OUTREACH AT WORK
Thanks to COVID, SMGA couldn’t reach out to the community as much as usual this past year. Nonetheless, the Outreach Committee was busy in 2021.
A few accomplishments:
- Student members Rachel Seets, Journey Moreno, and May Green represented SMGA at Texas State’s Market Day in October (pictured on the right).
- Rachel, a graduate student in wildlife biology and education chair for the Wildlife Society, created a program of guided hikes to be held in the greenbelt every third Saturday. Also on the day of the hike, an SMGA table will be set up at the trailhead.
- Student member Marcus Block is working on a video series for SMGA’s YouTube channel.
- Member Monique Tschurr continued to help SMCISD with guided hikes in PE classes.
- Working with Mark Taylor, the committee—led by web coordinator Anna Huff—added a page on the Emerald Crown Trail to SMGA’s website.
- Several new continuing features were added to The Loop: “Outside/In at the San Marcos Public Library” by Stephanie Langenkamp, “My Getaway” (a Q&A with a regular user of the trails), “Exploring Trails” by Christina Casas-Moreno, and “Outside with the Family” by Rachel Seets.
- In conjunction with the annual Naturescapes competition SMGA established a $75 award for the best photo taken in the greenbelt. To be eligible, a photo must first be chosen by the judge for the Naturescapes exhibit.
COLLABORATIONS AT TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY
In the fall of 2021, two Texas State University classes did projects in collaboration with SMGA. Working with members Monique Tschurr and Diane Phalen, Dr. Karen Smith’s Marketing for Social Change students—Alyssa and Jace are pictured above—created and ran a campaign that promoted positive trail culture in our natural areas.
Dr. Colleen Myles’ Environmental Interpretation class worked with Susan Hanson from SMGA and Kelly Eby from the City of San Marcos to identify and label plants in Ringtail. Dr. Myles’ geography students also created a digital scavenger hunt that can be accessed through a QR code in the kiosk and produced a short video that can be found on YouTube.
In the geography class Parks & Protected Places, Dr. Jason Julian’s students created and presented brochures on state, local, and private natural areas, including the six natural areas in San Marcos. Several members of the Outreach Committee attended their presentation.
BIRD BLIND PLANNED
San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance members Jo Korthals and Kenneth Dees have secured approval from the City of San Marcos to construct a bird viewing station in Schulle Canyon. They also secured approval of a grant ($1,500) from the Hays County Master Naturalists for materials for the station, contingent on raising the remaining amount needed (approximately $1,000). The SMGA Trail Crew will build the structure.
A PLAQUE AT LAST
In April, a plaque thanking Leadership San Marcos was added to the Matilda Bridge. It was through the fundraising done by this organization that SMGA was able to construct this important bridge in Lower Purgatory.
Contributors include Lance Jones, Mark Taylor, and Monique Tschurr.