SWT begins habitat restoration of Aquarena Center
SAN MARCOS, TEXAS — In an effort to restore the natural habitat in and around Aquarena Center, Southwest Texas State University officials met with the Army Corps of Engineers in early February to discuss the next step in plans to reestablish the aquatic ecosystem of the area.
The habitat has suffered gradual degradation over the years, and SWT is working with the Corps of Engineers to renew the area. The City of San Marcos, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPW) and the architects of the Texas Rivers Center Project also attended the project meeting.
Discussions surrounding the next stage of the project included evaluating restoration alternatives and completing environmental impact studies. This phase is expected to take between 12 and 18 months to complete. Preparation of construction plans and specifications will take an additional six to 12 months to complete before restoration actually begins.
Costs will be shared between the university and the Corps of Engineers. The proposed project consists of the removal of various man made facilities associated with the center, including most buildings, parking lots and abandoned theme park rides. The project calls for the planting of native trees, shrubs and grasses in the area.
The project will create two acres of wetlands on Sink Creek. Each end of Spring Lake Dam will feature water control structures. These will make it easier to release water during low spring flow to maintain river flow for ecological reasons, as well as during flood stages. Although the golf course will remain in operation, a buffer strip created below Spring Lake and in areas adjacent to Sink Creek will cause some holes to become more challenging. The glass bottom boats will remain in operation.
The project will dovetail with the partnership between SWT and TPW to develop the Texas Rivers Center at San Marcos Springs. The Center, located at the headwaters of the San Marcos River at the site of San Marcos Springs, is in its initial construction phase.
The first phase of this project includes renovating Aquarena Springs Inn to provide administrative offices, and to build the classrooms, interpretive exhibits and a gift shop. SWT and TPW personnel located at Aquarena Center will relocate to the renovated inn, allowing for demolition of existing structures as part of the restoration project.
In addition to the aquatic ecosystem restoration project and the development of the Texas Rivers Center at San Marcos Springs, the university will begin emergency repairs to Spring Lake Dam this spring. The repairs are not associated with either project but are a joint effort by the SWT and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.