SAN MARCOS — The Nature Conservancy of Texas announced Wednesday that it has acquired the approximately 251-acre Roger's Ridge tract from RYS Limited, LP, for $4,869,000. The tract will be transferred to the city of San Marcos for parkland once all acquisition funds have been raised.
Once slated for development as a hotel and conference center, the Roger's Ridge land is adjacent to an Marcos Springs and Texas State University's Aquarena Springs complex. Now planned as a nature park with hiking trails and picnic areas to be owned and managed by the city of San Marcos, the land is heavily wooded and offers commanding Hill Country vistas.
Approximately half of the tract is over the Edward Aquifer Recharge Zone, and the land contains the headwaters of Sink Creek, the uppermost tributary of the San Marcos River.
"The Nature Conservancy is delighted to be able to assist the citizens of San Marcos in creating this beautiful parkland and in conserving the natural heritage of the Hill Country's rivers and springs," said Carter Smith, Texas state director for The Nature Conservancy.
"Conserving this property as parkland will provide first-class recreational opportunities for area residents. It will also help protect the quality of water in the San Marcos Springs, home to several endangered species, and San Marcos River, as well as the Edwards Aquifer, which provides drinking water for many Central and South Texans."
Funding of the purchase will be accomplished through a combination of city funds, county money, and government and private fundraising. The city has committed $2 million to the project from the bond issue approved by San Marcos voters last November. In September 2005, Hays County Commissioners Court committed $700,000 of the county's Parks and Open Space bond funds to the project.
The remaining funds for the land purchase and for development of the park will need to be raised through government grants and private fundraising efforts. Funding requests have been submitted to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. Other governmental funding and private funds will be needed to complete the acquisition.
San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz noted the level of support offered by the citizens of San Marcos in approving bonds for city funding toward the purchase. "This proposition received the highest level of voter support of any of the bond propositions in the city's last election," she said. "The property will be a distinctive asset of the city, and its preservation will contribute greatly to the protection of our springs and river. It is the hope of the City Council that this land will contribute to greater understanding and appreciation of our city's unique natural setting on the part of our residents and visitors to the city."
Hays County Commissioner Will Conley noted that in 2002, a citizen-driven parks and open space funding guide ranked this project among the highest funding priorities for Hays County.
"This is a beautiful piece of property in the heart of our city," Conley said. "Rarely do we have an opportunity to conserve such an asset. At the same time, we want to emphasize that while the city and county, through their bond initiatives, have provided a substantial amount of funding for the purchase of this land, that funding will be just the beginning of efforts to create the nature park.
"A significant amount of work will remain to be done to fully fund the park - but it's an undertaking that ultimately will result in a major benefit for the citizens of San Marcos and Hays County."
Texas State University-San Marcos President Denise M. Trauth applauded the purchase. "This acquisition presents our community with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect one of the most important recharge areas for our river and its headwaters' springs," she said.
Jeff Francell, The Nature Conservancy's director of land and water protection who negotiated the land deal, noted that the willingness of landowner RYS, LP, the principal of which is local developer Terry Gilmore, to sell the property at a bargain-sale price facilitated the completion of the agreement to purchase the land. "This property was recently appraised at $6 million," Francell said. "If Terry had insisted on receiving the full appraised value for the property, the acquisition would not have been possible."
The city, Hays County and Texas State University-San Marcos previously agreed to promote and facilitate planning for an environmentally sensitive "green space" from Spring Lake Hills along Spring Lake and the San Marcos River to Interstate 35. As a part of that collaboration, the three entities agreed to work cooperatively to raise new funds to acquire and develop the park on the Roger's Ridge land. The Nature Conservancy was asked to assist in the land acquisition.