Have you heard of the hundredth monkey effect? Taking great liberty with the phenomenon observed in primates, I believe it has happened with our organization in the past year or two. At some point SMGA reached a critical mass which resulted in exponential, effortless, almost unexplained growth. Our trail crew alone has tripled, and other committees are larger, younger, and more diverse. Our fundraising has exploded; in 2022 we raised in the neighborhood of $30,000. Our membership has grown by 50 new members. With this growth, amazing as it is, comes more work, more expense, and the need for more organization. And we need our own place – not a dusty barn that is on borrowed time. If one of our members has a few acres near one of the Natural Areas, please give us a call!
Early in the year we updated our Strategic Plan, which hadn’t been revised since 2015. This took an entire day at a nearby retreat center where a couple dozen of us talked about SMGA’s strengths, weaknesses, and a pathway for the future. I believe we came away with concise, achievable goals and clear ways to reach them.
This year our Trail Crew built over 2.5 miles of trail in River Recharge Natural Area. I don’t think we’ve ever been thanked by trail users more than when we were working on those trails. Our trails introduced users to beautiful oak mots while being extremely respectful of all the recharge features on this property. To those who have asked why progress here and elsewhere has stalled, I would say that we are working with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to ensure the aquifer is safeguarded. Please stay tuned for updates on this matter.
While we’re known for our trails, SMGA has also removed countless invasive trees and grasses while planting natives, which increases water absorption and discourages runoff.
Our conservation committee has worked with other organizations to “close the loop” in our vision of continuous natural areas and trails around our city.
All this hands-on work could not be done without hours and hours of behind-the-scenes planning and organizing. Our volunteers logged well over 4000 hours, which translates to over $100,000 in service value to the city. Much of this work is done by the board and its committees, which is why I’m very excited to see such a great slate of nominees to fill the board seats that will open with three of us leaving. On behalf of Susan Hanson, Scott Henize, and me, it’s been a heck of a 6-year run. If you happen to be out on a trail and hear something rustling in the trees, that’s just us with 97 others keeping watch over the Natural Areas.