SMGA Newsletter for April 16, 2009

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In This Issue...

Texas State IT Fundraiser for SMGA
Guess Where on the Trail?
Trail Updates
Volunteer Profile: Sheila Torres-Blank
Naturescapes Photo Contest Is Ramping Up
Greenprinting Update
Thanks to You All for Help With the Annual Meeting
SMGA Accomplished Much in 2008
Collaboration With TX State
Single-Stream Recycling Has Arrived

Huisache (wee-sah-chee) blooms Photo by Todd Derkacz
Huisache (wee-sah-chee) blooms Photo by Todd Derkacz

Texas State IT Fundraiser for SMGA
Texas State University’s Information Technology division selects a local nonprofit each year as the beneficiary of their generous fundraising efforts. This year, the division selected SMGA to receive the proceeds from a fish and chicken tenders fry to be held on Thursday, April 23 from 11:00-1:00 in the pavilion behind the Lions tube rental. Tickets for the luncheon cost $7.50 and are only available by advanced purchase. Download a flyer for the event and e-mail or call Todd at 512-392-7457 to purchase your ticket. Join us for a delicious lunch, live music by rising star musician Albanie Falletta, and an opportunity to further support SMGA.

Guess Where on the Trail
Any idea where in a San Marcos natural area Lance Jones took this photo? Check your answer at the end of the newsletter.

San Marcos Texas

Trail Updates

in Purgatory Creek Greenspacein Purgatory Creek Greenspace
Above left: Trail workers near the grotto in Purgatory Creek Greenspace as viewed from the trail in upper Purgatory.
Above right: the trail crew makes good progress
one sunny Saturday in March.

New Maps Online
Visit the Natural Areas page on our website for two new maps (see links in the right panel near the top of the page). The first map is of San Marcos parks and greenspaces and was developed by SMGA with financial assistance from the City of San Marcos. The second is the long promised map of trails in Purgatory Creek Greenspace developed by Clint King.

Visitor Ethics
Citizens continue to report problems in our natural areas. We reported last month on a fire pit discovered at Ringtail and dismantled by our trail crew. The most recent problems include red paint tagging the Inga rock at the entrance to Prospect Park, a razor blade left in an armrest of a bench at Schulle Canyon Greenspace, trucks driving in the middle
meadow of Purgatory,another fire pit in lower Purgatory Creek Greenspace behind the dam, people parking on private property so they can get to the illegal breech in the fence at the bottom of Purgatory Creek, .22 target practice in Ringtail, Wiccan altars constructed for nighttime ceremonies in Schulle, the cleanly sawed off posts of the display panel under the learning tree in Prospect Park, and if that wasn’t enough someone stole our pin flags marking a newly approved grotto trail. Some “evidence” photos appear below.


For Your Calendar

SMGA Events

Trail Building

Location TBA, 7:00-8:30 am

Saturday 4/18 and 5/2
Upper Purgatory, 8:30-10:30 am (8:00 first timers)

Email to receive location, directions, and last-minute weather cancellations. Gloves, hard shoes, eyewear required. Water bottle, long pants, hat recommended. We supply tools and bug repellent.

Earth Day Hike Saturday, 4/25
Spring Lake Preserve, 10:00 am-Noon
Hike sponsored by SMGA and led by Master Naturalists concluding in time to visit the Earth Day exhibits at Aquarena Center. This will be an interpretive hike for advanced training hours for the Master Naturalists as well as informative for the public. More about Earth Day at Aquarena below.

5th Annual Naturescapes Photo Contest
Entries accepted April 1-July 6, 2009
Open to resident and visiting photographers of all ages. Cash prizes for best in show, best San Marcos area, and awards of excellence.

IT Lunch Fundraiser for SMGA Thursday, 4/23
Email alliance@smgreenbelt for tickets

Delicious fish fry or chicken tenders for the benefit of SMGA. Tickets for the luncheon cost $7.50 and are only available by advanced purchase.

Community Events

Native Plant Sale Saturday, 4/18
San Marcos Nature Center, 9:00 am-4:00 pm
Contact Julie at 512-393-8448

Jacob’s Well Service Day Saturday, 4/18
Jacob's Well Natural Area, 8:00 am-Noon
Work crews will join American Youth Works volunteers to restore the land surrounding Jacob's Well. Email for more information.

SMRF Cave Day Sunday, 4/19
Email, 2:00 pm
San Marcos River Foundation will be excavating a cave to remove rocks and dirt placed in the cave’s entrance to deter cattle. Bring buckets and hand tools and wear sturdy shoes, gloves, long sleeves, and dust masks or bandanas to cover your nose and mouth.

Herbs Tuesday, 4/21
San Marcos Nature Center, 6:15-8:00 pm
Terri Loe will present uses and crafts with herbs. Do you know which herbs keep flies away? Or which herbs make the most delicious teas? This will be a fun, interactive class! Please register at the Parks and Recreation office no later than Monday, April 20. Cost is $3.00 per person. Ages 12 and up.

Earth Day Saturday, 4/25
Aquarena Center, 12:00-6:00 pm
This year’s event will include a blessing of the springs, distinguished speakers, educational booths, live music, regional food and vendor booths, recreational activities, and more! Glass-bottom kayak tours and $2 off of a glass-bottom boat tour with a contribution of 10 aluminum cans. SMGA will have a booth and could use volunteers for an hour or two during the afternoon. Email if you can help.

Electronic Waste Collection Saturday, 4/25
Bobcat Stadium parking lot, 8:00 am-3:00 pm
Dispose of personal electronic items in a safe, secure and totally recyclable manner. Volunteers needed: e-mail Ivana Flowers

VIVA! Cinco de Mayo Celebration
Friday & Saturday, 5/1-2
Hays County Civic Center, San Marcos
The event features exciting live music and entertainment, arts and crafts as well as a downtown parade. Free. For more information, contact (512) 353-VIVA or visit

Beginning Gardening Tuesday, 5/12
San Marcos Nature Center, 6:00-7:00 pm
Jennifer Matthews will be giving a presentation on how to make your garden flourish this spring and summer. Free demonstrations and hands-on training!

City Manager’s Update/Chamber Breakfast
Thursday, 5/14
San Marcos Activity Center,
7:00 am breakfast, 7:30 presentation

City Manager Rick Menchaca will report on his successes in his first year and what he hopes to accomplish in the future. $10.00 if RSVP by 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, May 12; $12.50 after May 12.


 truck in Purgatory  tagged Inga rock sawed down kiosk

Left: truck in Purgatory; Center: tagged Inga rock; Right: sawed down kiosk

SMGA’s email to San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department describing the vandalism resulted in a meeting with the park staff, new fencing and signage in key locations, and the adoption of rules specifically for natural areas. Our park ranger and the police department have also stepped up their patrols. Of course if you witness acts of vandalism as you are out in our local parks and greenspaces, report them immediately by calling 393-8470 or 393-8426.

There may always be some kooky people who do things we may never fully understand, but if those acts are fewer in the future then a measure of success can be counted. We have achieved a great deal and many visitors are enjoying the areas with respect.

Trail Work Volunteer Hours
Here’s some great news to help counter the bad news above: a more complete tabulation of sign-in sheet data shows 621.5 hours spent building trails by SMGA volunteers in 2008. Adding the trail work hours logged by John Griffis’ cadets, the total comes to around 750 hours!

A Walkabout With Master Naturalists

Ringtail RidgeRingtail Ridge
Recently completed primitive path bridges at Ringtail Ridge

The Master Naturalists are scheduled to hold a class at Ringtail Ridge on Tuesday, April 14 from 6:00 PM to dusk. The class will be challenged to address the health and management of the meadows and enhance the wetland possibilities, while at the same time minimizing visitor impacts.

Kiosk and Wildlife Viewing Stands at Spring Lake Preserve
If you get to Spring Lake Preserve, take note of a kiosk going up at the beginning of the trail just past the university’s storage areas. Eagle Scout candidate Omar Rashad is working with crews to build something similar to the Prospect kiosk with guidance from SMGA. We recently walked with Melani Howard, the city’s watershed protection manager, to identify locations for wildlife viewing stands. Any bird watchers, hunters or nature watchers with viewing stand design tips should contact Melani or with tips.

Bobcat Build
Preliminary reports show a great deal of work accomplished at Upper Purgatory Greenspace. A full report and photos to follow in our May newsletter.

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Volunteer Profile: Sheila Torres-Blank

We asked outgoing board member Sheila Torres-Blank to tell us a little bit about the many years she has spent in service to SMGA. As you’ll read, Sheila’s contributions have been invaluable and helped make our organization what it is today. Thank you Sheila!

When did you first get involved in SMGA and why? My initial involvement was motivated primarily by a selfish desire to have trails in town. I was tired of always driving an hour to go mountain biking. I already knew Todd so I started tagging along for the morning trail work. At first the Thursday morning trail group was just the two of us but eventually word got out and we had picked up a group of a half dozen or so regulars. I continue to be involved because it turns out that designing trail and building trail are almost as much fun as using it. And I'm not sure you can ever have too much trail.

What are some benefits you have derived by volunteering for SMGA? I think what I have enjoyed most is making new friends with like-minded folks. People who dig the outdoors are so cool and it has been a pleasure working with and getting to know all of them. The day-to-day stuff may not always be big and exciting but the work is vitally important. I feel proud to be a part of an organization that is working towards a future where San Marcos is NOT just one more stretch of pavement in a completely urbanized Austin-San Antonio corridor. I would much rather imagine us as a green oasis in the middle of that concrete wasteland. But that vision won't be realized without a great deal of work and commitment on all of our parts.

Sheila (on the right) and friends at SMGA’s annual meeting
Sheila (on the right) and friends
at SMGA’s annual meeting.

Tell us a little more about you.
I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska (Go Big Red!) and spent time in Michigan and Kansas before moving to Texas in 1994. I came for the librarian job at Texas State University and stayed because I love living in San Marcos. I've been a cyclist and/or runner for years. After coming to Texas I got hooked on adventure racing, a team sport that includes trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, map & compass navigation throughout and an assortment of other physical challenges. So if I'm not at my day job, building trail, or helping out at my husband's bakery, then I'm probably out training for my next race. I'm also a foodie and this year decided to try gardening for the first time. We'll see how that goes!

Naturescapes Photo Contest Is Ramping Up
The Hill Country Photography Club and SMGA are ramping up the Naturescapes Photo contest and are seeking sponsors for the contest to help cover its cost. Please contact Chris North at if you know of a business or sponsor who would like to be associated with a contest that helps photographers as well as two great nonprofit organizations. Read more about the contest at Hill Country Photography Club and SMGA are ramping up the Naturescapes Photo contest and are seeking sponsors for the contest to help cover its cost. Please contact Chris North at if you know of a business or sponsor who would like to be associated with a contest that helps photographers as well as two great nonprofit organizations. Read more about the contest at

Greenprinting Update
Don’t miss this update on greenprinting at

Thanks to You All for Help With the Annual Meeting

Many different details, attended to by many of you, made our annual meeting a success. The food and drink were plentiful and the guests enthusiastic about visiting with others who contribute to and appreciate natural areas. Greenspace bingo and door prizes made for a fun, interactive event. Attendees also approved bylaws revisions, voted in new and returning board members Vicki Giere, Charlie O’Neil, Vaughn Thayer, Ann Jensen, and Julie Hulbert-King, and said thanks to departing board members John Thomaides, Murray Holley, and Sheila Torres-Blank. John Griffis received recognition for bringing Hays County Juvenile Justice Center youths into our natural areas to complete trail work and Todd Derkacz was honored for his many years of service to SMGA and our community.

SMGA Accomplished Much in 2008
Also highlighted at our annual meeting were SMGA’s numerous accomplishments during 2008, including:

John Griffis receives walking stick as a token of SMGA’s appreciation
John Griffis receives walking stick as
a token of SMGA’s appreciation
  • Helped usher through $3.2 million county funding of San Marcos parks and natural areas.
  • Ramped up conservation committee activities and helped connect landowners with agencies and organizations for ultimate conservation of lands.
  • Received the feasibility research from intern Abby Gillifan on the Purgatory Creek Trail Project to eventually connect Purgatory Creek with the San Marcos River Parks.
  • Participated in Trust for Public Lands greenprint process to combine detailed maps and data with Hays County citizen values to determine best locations for conservation.
  • Alerted City of San Marcos to conservation land acquisition opportunities that would help create the greenbelt loop around the city.

  • Consulted with City of San Marcos to improve and enable appropriate recreation in local natural areas, including Spring Lake Preserve, Ringtail, and Purgatory.
  • Consulted with and established contract for improvements to Ringtail Ridge with Environmental Survey Consultants under 2007 National Trails Grant from Texas Parks & Wildlife.
  • Recruited trail crew and coordinated about 750 hours of trail work, which included creating trail connections between upper and lower Purgatory Greenspaces and between Ringtail Ridge and Wonderland School.
  • Provided a clearinghouse service for reports from the many “eyes on the parks” to the appropriate agency.
  • Supported a variety of courses at Texas State University-San Marcos.

    Outreach / Education
  • Completed development of promotional brochure including map of San Marcos parks and greenspaces.
  • Developed new imagery and color scheme for logo and other outreach materials.
  • Developed and published trail maps for Prospect Park and Purgatory Greenspace.
  • Redesigned web site to make it more navigable and visually appealing.
  • Transitioned email list to an online system (Constant Contact); increased SMGA newsletters recipients to over 500.
  • Assisted Texas State students with the development of a San Marcos nature tourism marketing plan.
  • Held Full Moon party at Ringtail Ridge to encourage residents to interact with this newly renovated natural area.
  • Conducted online membership survey to gather input on mission and outreach activities.

  • Updated bylaws to address various gaps and weaknesses.
  • Created job descriptions, revised board member agreement, and created an annual budget.
  • Completed 18-month strategic plan (June 2008 to December 2009).
  • Selected board members attended Texas Land Trust Conference and received training from Greenlights for Non-Profit Success.

Collaboration With TX State

GPS/GIS/Biology/Wildlife Management

Dr Giordano and Dr Simpson are combining classes again to do some detail data collection in Purgatory Creek Greenspace. Their data will be used to add details to maps of local natural areas and to provide a baseline of flora and fauna.

Common Experience

Next year’s Common Experience theme for lectures, readings, films, and presentations across the curriculum will be “The Sustainability Revolution”. We hope to participate by leading interpretive hikes and assisting with panel discussions.

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Single-Stream Recycling Has Arrived
We hope you are starting to take advantage of the city's new single stream recycling program ( We heartily endorse any and all efforts to preserve our environment and thank our city leaders for making it easier than ever to reduce waste. Share your enthusiasm for recycling with your neighbors and friends so that everyone realizes what a benefit the small extra cost and effort on their part will bring to future generations.

SMGA Board & Committees

Board Of Directors
Todd Derkacz, President
Sherwood Bishop
Vicki Giere
Julie Hulbert-King
Maggie Hutchins-Wagner
Ann Jensen
Charlie O’Neil
Vaughn Thayer
Mary Waters

Conservation Committee
Sherwood Bishop, Chair
Abby Gillifillan

Stewardship Committee
Julie Hulbert-King, Chair
Sheila Torres-Blank

Communications Committee
Ann Jensen, Chair & Newsletter Editor
Lance Jones
Vicki Giere
Maggie Hutchins-Wagner

Guess Where on the Trail Answer

The fossil pictured at the top of this month’s newsletter is in the
rock pictured above right near the trailhead at Prospect Park.

Click a date below to view past News & Events:

March 25, 2008 July 16, 2008 November 18 , 2008      
April 16, 2008 August 19, 2008 December 22, 2008      
May 21, 2008 September 17, 2008 January 26, 2009      
June 16, 2008 October 20, 2008 March 5, 2009       

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