The past year has been challenging for SMGA, and for pretty much everyone else on the planet. However, we and our community have continued making progress in greenspace acquisition, trail mileage & quality, the number of visitors, and in outreach and awareness.
The pandemic has continued as a dominant force. SMGA’S 2021 annual meeting was held via Zoom for the first time, as were most of our board and committee meetings, and meetings with City staff and other partners. In July, our board met in person in our office for the first time in over a year. The rise of the Delta COVID variant sent us back to Zoom, and Omicron is keeping us there. We optimistically reserved the San Marcos Rec Center for our 2022 annual meeting on Sunday, March 6, but Omicron has forced that meeting onto Zoom again.
As the word alliance in our name indicates, communicating and working with partners and volunteers is central to the process through which we work. That is difficult when we can only “reach out and touch” folks remotely.
Nevertheless, 2021 was still a good year. More people than ever visited our natural areas and hiked our trails (admittedly, the opportunities for safely getting out of our homes were often restricted). The Stewardship Committee folks developed protocols for volunteers to work together on the trails without exposing each other to COVID. They logged hundreds of hours maintaining existing trails and building new ones and added a new Saturday morning work crew as well. They are replacing and adding to our many trail markers and signs. In the spring, they also completed construction of Matilda Bridge over Purgatory Creek.
Team Flora, which removes invasive trees and plants and replaces them with native ones, and collects native seeds and plants them where needed, expanded its size and scope.
SMGA worked with the San Marcos River Foundation, the Emerald Crown Trail Working Group, the Great Springs Project, and others to continue advocating for the creation of new natural areas. The “Grand Greenbelt,” (the contiguous loop of permanently protected natural areas around San Marcos) is now mostly completed. The Elsik Tract, which extends from the southern end of the Ringtail Ridge Natural Area on old Ranch Road 12 to the northern side of the Buie Tract parkland, has been consistently rated as one of the highest priorities by the Hays County Parks & Open Space Advisory Committee (POSAC), which is deciding how to spend the $75,000,000 from the County bond election passed by 70% of voters in Nov. 2020. The San Marcos City Council voted to accept the land, if purchased, and add it to the city’s parkland. SMGA has developed proposed trail routes through the Elsik tract, to connect it with trails we’ll build through the Buie Tract.
The SMGA Conservation Committee, which works to identify, map, and conserve natural areas, continues to explore and support the acquisition of other natural areas, as well as to find a site for a new SMGA headquarters.
SMGA also amended our official Memorandum of Agreement with the CoSM and extended it for another ten years. And, we have joined the new Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD), which will provide short-term and long-term support in case of storms, floods, wildfires, extended power failures, other possible calamities.
The SMGA Outreach Committee, which produces The Loop, our monthly newsletter, maintains our web site and Facebook page, and conducts Bird Watch hikes and other educational activities, was also exceedingly productive, considering the challenges of COVID.
2021 wasn’t exactly a banner year for Fundraising, with COVID again limiting our opportunities. However, we cut back on expenses a bit and held our own financially.
Four of our board members will be replaced in 2022, as yours truly and others will complete their terms. I won’t be far out on a limb if I predict that the coming year will be a fantastic one!