The 251-acre park remains mostly undeveloped, with the exception of a few overgrown hiking trails. Access to the park will only be available through guided tours with the Greenbelt Alliance of San Marcos. (Photo by Marc Speir)
The city of
A $360,000 grant from the Emmett and Miriam McCoy Foundation on June 11 completed the fundraising for the
The NCT acquired ownership of the land in May of 2006 from developer Terry Gilmore in a partnership to transfer the management and ownership of the tract to the city as soon as the $5.1 million could be raised, with
City officials will close on the property by the end of July and are planning a community celebration for the park in late August. Access to the park will only be available through guided tours with the Greenbelt Alliance of San Marcos until park trails are developed.
The acreage is planned as a nature park with hike and bike trails, bird watching and picnic areas within the heavily wooded hills overlooking
The region contains a wide variety of flora and fauna, acts as home to an array of animal life, and provides a significant recharge zone for the Edwards Aquifer. Designed for use as a low-intensity recreation area, the tract is without such amenities as soccer fields or tennis courts.
“This is a part of a larger master plan with the city and county to improve everything with more green space,” said Andy Sansom, executive director of the River Systems Institute at
Texas State President Denise Trauth celebrated the purchase as a victory for the environment.
“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 headwater’s springs,” Trauth said.
The buyout will protect the quality of water in
Half of the tract is situated over the environmentally sensitive recharge zone for the aquifer and also contains Sink Creek, the uppermost tributary of the
|Andrew Sansom |
Sansom, former executive director of both the NCT and
“It’s been a real collaborative effort,” Sansom said. “We had our students active in the bond issue and we’ve worked with all the government and private entities to make it happen.”
The Center for Nature and Heritage Tourism at
Large growths of fruiting prickly pear cactus are some of the native species that highlight the new park. (Photo by Marc Speir)
Currently, there are no public access points for the park until master planning for the property is completed and a trail system is developed.
Guided tours are available through the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance. A schedule of events can be found at: www.smgreenbelt.org/NewsEvents.htm.
History of the new park
“The human remains found at Aquarena Springs are as old as anyone has found anywhere in all of
In 1849, General Edward Burleson built a dam to power a gristmill on the
The 251 acres adjacent to the resort supported ranching and hunting for decades, left undisturbed in recent years with the exception of a few hiking trails.
The 90-acre property of Aquarena Springs was sold to
The 251 acres adjacent to the center were increasingly considered for private residential development by investors.
In 2004, the city and local developers initiated plans to build a large hotel and conference center at the highest point of the acreage. Construction plans were halted because of access points to the proposed buildings and the proximity of the Edwards Aquifer and headwaters of the
In March 2005, developers moved the conference center and hotel plans to IH-35 and
In May 2005, the city, county and university entered into a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on acquiring the 251 acres for use as a natural area.
The entities agreed to plan an environmentally sensitive green space from Spring Lake Hills along
In September 2005,
After being asked to assist in the land acquisition, the NCT purchased the 251 acres from RYS Limited, LP, for $4,869,000 in May 2006, holding it until the city and county could raise the necessary funds to purchase the property.
Principle developer Terry Gilmore sold the land at a bargain price, with appraisals listed at $6 million.
“Mr. Gilmore was very generous to allow us the opportunity to buy the land for less than its worth,” said Sansom. “Essentially, it was an in-kind gift of over a million dollars.”
The remaining costs were absorbed through a combination of city funds, county money, grants, government and private fundraising. The final tally totaled $5.1 million instead of the $4,869,000 the NCT paid due to accumulated interest holdings.
Other major contributors and contributions include: $1 million from the U.S. Department of Interior, $355,670 from the Meadows Foundation, $400,000 from