San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance •  107 E. Hopkins St. Suite 121A; San Marcos, Texas 78666

The Loop


Our Getaway: A Conversation with Friends Charlie O’Neil and Al Scott

Charlie O’Neil was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1943. His first travels were with the Peace Corps in Brazil, where he met his wife, Sharon. After bouncing around inside and out of academia, and having two children, Daniel and Joana, they settled in San Marcos in 1977.

Charlie worked for Community Action locally, and later worked twenty years for AMD in Austin. He is a terrible gardener and enjoys cooking, eating, books and walking the trails. When his older grandsons visit from Germany, he loves taking them out for trail work, something they enjoy tremendously. 

What attracted you to the Greenbelt Alliance?

I retired in 2004 and Todd Derkacz suggested I try trail work. (NO skills or experience necessary!) I tried it and have been going back ever since. Working on the trails has given me an entirely new perspective on the natural world and made me more conscious of its beauty and diversity. On the trails you can see whimsical things like the Rhinoceros Oak in Upper Purgatory or the magical grove on Roadrunner near LBJ covered with Spanish moss. Each time I go out I see something new. 

What do you see as the value of natural areas?

There are personal and social benefits of the natural areas in San Marcos. They are peaceful changes from city life, a place to relax and do your thing—hike, meditate, bird watch, run or bike. And the social benefits are enormous: water quality, flood mitigation, biodiversity, and recreation. Having them is a tremendous benefit for the citizens.

What is your favorite natural area?

My favorites are Schulle, Ringtail, and Spring Lake because they are the most peaceful, with little traffic noise. Schulle is a wonderful neighborhood meeting place. The other two have diverse trails with different types of hiking, trees, and grasses.

What recommendations would you give new users of the trail? 

Newcomers to the trails probably should download the terrific maps on the SMGA website, wear closed shoes, carry water in the summer, and be prepared to stop and look at something new and interesting. Try the shorter loops first, follow the few regulations (especially about dogs), and enjoy.


Al Scott was born and raised in Washington state and moved to San Marcos in 1977 after many years spent in college (WSU off & on from 1963-74, BA in English), the Army (1/66-1/68), the Peace Corps (2 years in Togo, West Africa, 1974-76), and working construction as a general laborer in Washington state, Texas, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. Although Al volunteered for the Draft in 1966, he claims to have enjoyed the Peace Corps more than the War Corps (Vietnam).

He has worked for several non-profit organizations over the years, including Neighborhood Housing Services of Shreveport, the American Cancer Society, and the Hays County Food Bank. His longest employment, however, was with a for-profit corporation, Advanced Micro Devices, in Austin, where he served as a Production Supervisor, Trainer, and Continuous Improvement Coordinator over a period of 20 years. Al retired in 2012 from the Hays County Food Bank.

Al met Michele in the Peace Corps, and they got married in San Marcos in 1979. They have one son, Jeffrey, who now lives in Vancouver, BC. Al’s favorite non-profit volunteer organization is the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, both on the Trail Crew and Team Flora.

Why do you value the natural areas?

Natural areas are important as an escape from the busy and sometimes stressful environment of city life. One has an opportunity of viewing wildlife and relaxing scenery while getting exercise walking or cycling on the trails. I also find the areas provide an outlet for contributing to the community by volunteering to work on the trails.

Who or what most influenced your view of the natural world? 

I would say my father introduced me to the beauty of nature on our pack trips into the Cascade Mountains in Washington state. We rode horses on numerous trails in the mountains, enjoying the rivers and lakes and snow-capped peaks. He taught me camp lore and appreciation of well-made trails. Later, when I left home, I backpacked the mountain trails with my brother and friends.

What attracted you to the Greenbelt Alliance?

My friend Charlie O’Neil suggested volunteering with SMGA around 2011. I found the trail building activities were really fulfilling. The Trail Crew leadership was knowledgeable, approachable, amiable, and even inspiring at times, although I might not admit that to them in person. All the volunteers work hard and display a sense of humor, thank goodness.

What is your favorite trail?  What do you like about it?

I believe I most enjoy walking the trails in Ringtail Ridge Natural Area. There is a variety of terrain, including ridges and lowlands, with water features, open spaces, and wooded landscape. It provides adequate parking and long boardwalk segments above areas prone to flooding. The trails are not difficult to walk, and since the NA is not huge, you can see it all in an hour or so.

What do you most enjoy doing when you visit the Greenbelt? 

For me, walking and working on the trails is what I enjoy most. I like to create new trails with my fellow volunteers and also maintain them after they are completed. I like lopping and sawing branches, clearing vistas, creating drainage run-offs, and working on tread. Building a bird watching station is also fun—as was done in the Schulle Canyon Natural Area.

What recommendations would you give new users of the trail?

I would suggest that new users learn something about the Natural Area before walking the trails, using information at trail head kiosks, online, and via smart phones where maps are available to review. Wear appropriate footwear; some rocky trails will challenge hikers wearing flip-flops. Follow further instructions posted at the kiosks regarding pets, staying on trail, littering, and general safety. Pack out what you pack in. Enjoy nature and help keep our natural areas clean.

You are donating to : San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance

How much would you like to donate?
$10 $20 $30
Would you like to make regular donations? I would like to make donation(s)
How many times would you like this to recur? (including this payment) *
Name *
Last Name *
Email *
Additional Note
Simple Share Buttons
Simple Share Buttons