My Getaway: A Conversation with the Rev. Todd Salmi
Todd is a Methodist pastor who leads the ecumenical United Campus Ministry at Texas State. In addition to college ministry, Todd encourages volunteering throughout town via Serve San Marcos. He enjoys walking the trails with his wife, Mari, and his kids.
Why do you value the natural areas?
Our natural areas in San Marcos are a priceless treasure that show the beauty of creation and the interconnectivity of our community.
I love seeing the bluebonnets bloom among the cactus. During wet seasons, it is powerful to see water flow through a normally dry rivershed. I find all types of people on the trail, and walking different trails helps me explore different parts of our town.
What is your favorite trail? What do you like about it?
We live near Prospect Park. It has a fantastic range of features like accessible trails, educational markers, sinkholes and ephemeral ponds, the natural restoration of removing invasive ligustrum and planting native grasses, and a mix of rocky hills and flat grasslands. Our favorite trail in Prospect is the Limbo trail, which runs in a loop around the park.
What do you most enjoy doing when you visit the Greenbelt?
Trails are such a great activity because of the variety of ways to explore them. I can go with a large group or by myself. I can take a quick walk or a longer hike. It’s a healthy activity in an outdoor setting. The trails are FREE and almost always open. The Greenbelt is always a good option when I’m trying to find something to do!
What recommendations would you give new users of the trails?
I suggest selecting one trail to walk repeatedly throughout the year. As you get to know that particular trail, you will notice more nuanced details about the landscape that you might have missed the first time. Regular walks give you a chance to see how the trail changes through seasons, weather events, and even trail maintenance. I find it joyful to see the grass grow tall after rains, to see flowers bloom in different seasons, and to have views open up as trees lose their leaves in winter.
How has your view of the natural world been shaped by your religious beliefs/spirituality?
God’s fingerprints are all over creation. God frequently communicates with people through creation (Gen 15:5, Exodus 13:21, Psalm 19, Matthew 13:1-9). God invites humanity to care for creation and help it flourish (Gen 2:15). When we miss the mark and are in wrong relationship with God and our neighbor, we often see warning signs in creation (Jonah 1, Leviticus 18:28). Yet, creation reminds us that God is creative. God is faithful throughout a variety of seasons, and invites us to the faithful work of cultivating peace, love, and diversity that includes all people and all creation (Isiah 11:6-9, Revelation 22:2).
What are ways to connect college students with the Greenbelt?
As a pastor, the San Marcos Greenbelt plays an active role in my ministry with college students. Among our most popular events are hikes on the Greenbelt. These walks are a free and fun way to meet new people and explore the outdoors. Students often take photos and post their adventures on social media. Once we show students the trails, they often return with other friends. We’ve found walking the trails can help cultivate a lifelong excitement for greenspace.
As a campus chaplain, what have you found most important or effective in encouraging young adults to be good stewards of the environment?
Caring for the environment is important for most young adults, but they often aren’t sure how they can make a personal difference. Every semester we participate in nature cleanups along the trails. These events help college students witness first-hand the impact of litter—especially micro-liter such as small plastic bags or caps. It only takes an hour to fill several garbage bags. I’ve found these cleanups encourage students to pick up litter on their hikes, as well as to be more careful about the waste they create.