SMRF’s Conservation Experience
It was clear from field work and dye studies that creating greenspace around the northern edge of San Marcos, north and west of the springs, would have the most impact in regard to protecting the water quality and flow, as well as helping to mitigate some of the flooding that affects San Marcos. SMRF’s initial step was to successfully push for a city bond proposal to fund the purchase of 251 acres, now known as Spring Lake Preserve— a sensitive recharge area directly above Spring Lake and the San Marcos Springs and now one of the most popular hiking trails in the city, cresting high above the lake on the first hills of the Hill Country. During this time, recharge-protective land codes were put forth by city officials, requiring future development in and around the recharge zone to set aside specific green space to counter their impact and add to the existing preserves.
The Geiger Ranch- 75 acres
In 2013, a high-density development was proposed next to the Spring Lake Preserve and required easements from nearby properties. Besides issues of impervious cover affecting recharge, the area was also highly prone to flooding. SMRF, after much deliberation, purchased the key property—the 75-acre Geiger Farm– to place a conservation easement on it and protect its recharge features from heavy development. Extensive clean ups began, and various geological and biological studies were startedThe Geiger Farm was always of great concern because of its location: proximity to Spring Lake and Sink Creek, its proximity to the city and the likelihood of development, and its position in the flood plain, where dense development could easily exacerbate flooding. SMRF has worked for seven years to negotiate the appropriate conservation easements and find a buyer willing to meet the high standards set forth in the agreement.
DreamCatcher Ranch — 270 acres
In 2016, SMRF was instrumental in the conservation of the Dreamcatcher Ranch, a 270-acre working ranch above the springs that filters nearly 2000 acres of stormwater before reaching Spring Lake. Had this ranch been developed and paved, more flooding could be expected in San Marcos.Funding came from the NRCS, the Meadows Foundation in Dallas, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Agricultural Lands grant program, plus the landowners and GBR Trust.
The Millican Ranch –284 acres
In 2018, SMRF had the opportunity work with the City of San Marcos and a landowner to conserve the 284-acre Millican Ranch, which boasted extensive and impressive recharge features. SMRF found and helped the City obtain a special loan from the federal Clean Water Fund to purchase the land ensuring perpetual protection., the first loan of its kind in the state of Texas. Private landowners who followed SMRF’s work, later purchased the property neighboring the Geiger Farm and closed on a conservation easement themselves in 2019, adding further protection to Spring Lake and the San Marcos River. The City pf San Marcos was meanwhile pursuing other land opportunities and the protective loop has finally taken shape.
Eastside Preserve — 31 acres
31 acres of riverside land in town was donated to SMRF in 2017 because of our reputation for conservation. It is a place we had long hoped would be preserved, surrounding Willow Springs Creek and the south side of the San Marcos River. Various studies have been conducted in the area and restoration of the river banks is underway. SMRF will retain this property as a preserve for flood plain protection