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

The Loop


SMGA Celebrates 25 Years!

“I am so proud of the work you do to protect open space and the quality of life of those living in San Marcos,” Rep. Erin Zwiener told a crowd of nearly 200 members and friends gathered for the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance’s 25th anniversary celebration on Saturday, Feb. 24. “Thank you for your continued effort to raise awareness and educate the community on the importance of protecting and celebrating greenspace.”

Citing the swelling population of the Texas Hill Country, due in large part to its scenic landscapes and rivers, Zwiener noted the value of groups such as SMGA. She argued that there is  “a growing need to prioritize the preservation of our natural resources and green spaces, strategically offsetting the impacts associated with rapid development. Heightened concerns over water resources, flood risks, and environmental sustainability underscore the need for coordinated efforts among the state legislature, local governments, and community organizations.”

Jon Cradit with Chris North and his son Sawyer

Following Zwiener’s presentation, SMGA President Jon Cradit conducted the annual business meeting, which included recognizing the organization’s founding members—Sherwood Bishop, Coral Coughlin, Jon Cradit, Todd Derkacz, Kyle Hahn, Jane Jackson, Linda Keese, JoEllen Korthals, Minette Marr, Camille Phillips, Lex Ray, Jessica Snider, and Tom and Dianne Wassenich—honoring outgoing board members Anna Huff and Andrew Nance, and voting on new board members Austin Bodin and Michael Bira. Cradit was also on the ballot, running for his second three-year term.

Reports were then given by treasurer Eric Weeks, Stewardship Committee chair Alan Holzgrafe, Outreach Committee co-chairs Olivia Palomares and Melani Howard, and Conservation Committee member Sherwood Bishop. Cradit announced that SMGA volunteers recorded 3,491.756 hours in 2023, adding that the actual number was likely higher. Operated entirely by volunteers, SMGA sends out crews twice weekly to maintain its nearly 30 miles of trails in seven natural areas, to construct and re-route trails, and to remove invasive species and plant natives. Volunteers also produce a monthly newsletter, lead hikes, assist with Texas State University class projects, and raise funds for the purchase of tools and equipment.

Honoring the Volunteer of the Year is always a highlight of SMGA’s annual meeting, with this year’s award going to trail crew member Scott Henize. Named Community Partner of the Year were Jeannene and Doug Herber of Lucky Sky Graphics, who were cited for their work creating signage for the trails. Both of these awards came with walking sticks created by SMGA member Kenneth Dees. Other awards went to Norman Bean (Artistic Contribution), Vee Volpe (Rising Star), Brandon Smith (Trailblazer), Lauren Thompson (Innovative Project), and Colleen Myles (Environmental Educator).


(left to right) Presenter Matt Lewis with Norman Bean, Vee Volpe, Brandon Smith, Lauren Thompson, and Colleen Myles

The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance was formed in 1998, the year residents of San Marcos approved building the Wonder World extension between Hunter Road and Ranch Road 12. At the same time, a townhouse project had been proposed for the end of nearby Prospect Street, indicating that big changes were coming to one of the city’s most environmentally sensitive areas. Enter Chris North.

North, who lived across the street from the 9-acre site where the townhouses were to be built, had other ideas. Gathering neighbors and friends from the San Marcos River Foundation, Hays County Master Naturalists, and other groups, she proposed preserving the site as parkland. The group’s effort paid off. Prospect Park, as the land would later be known, was the first in what would become a collection of green spaces and trails encircling San Marcos.

Writing in 2018, on the occasion of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance’s 20th anniversary, founding member Sherwood Bishop recalled what happened next. “In May, 1998, before the group even had a name, North had suggested to the San Marcos City Council that a ‘greenbelt loop’ be developed around the city,” he noted. “As their main long-term goal, the fledgling SMGA adopted the creation of a contiguous loop around the city, connected to a line of parks along the San Marcos River to its confluence with the Blanco, and up the Blanco from there.” When laid out on a map, this route formed a “loop and check,” the image that would symbolize SMGA’s vision for the future.

With the purchase of the 102-acre Elsik Tract, through the Hays County Parks and Open Space Bond, that contiguous loop around San Marcos was completed in October of 2023. That success was just one of the many accomplishments highlighted at SMGA’s 25th anniversary celebration, which included not only the business meeting and address by Zwiener, but also refreshments from local restaurants and the Bluebonnet Lions Club, and a silent auction and raffle, with donations from almost 50 businesses and individuals.

​​Written by Susan Hanson, editor, The Loop. This article originally appeared in the San Marcos Daily Record.​

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