"After a day’s walk, everything has twice its usual value." — G.M. Trevelyan
Try a Trail, or Two or Three ...!
July 20, 2020
Some friends and colleagues have mentioned their frustration in seeking away from home options while remaining distanced and quarantined in this "selah season." They've mentioned their appreciation for my/our circumstances living as we do with wild and pasture life as our primary neighbors. My suggestions have included, "why not try a trail suited for your interest, ability and purposes!"
We in New Braunfels and Comal County are blessed with local trail options as well as a broader Hill Country context which multiplies the options exponentially both for hiking and biking. There are some excellent resources to pursue. Most local would be the Comal Trails Alliance (comaltrails.org). They identify some nearby options and invite participation in trail development and maintenance as well. Find your comfort zone and head on out!
When I inquired of a small select group of family, friends and colleagues about favorites all of the listings with Comal Trails were on the list. In addition, I was pointed to the rich offerings identified on the All Trails apps for sophisticated phones. Note the options carry with them "degrees of challenge."
Nothing is better food for the soul and one's mental health than a stroll under the canopy of a wooded area or alongside a fascinating creek bed. With "our Canyon Lake" so much more begins to open wide. Be sure to prepare for any stroll with a good walking stick and sufficient hydration, especially in our summer months. Use hardy shoes and take your best sunscreen and repellents as well.
When I asked my circle for some input about "favorites" I also asked for the modest to wildest dreams of additional options. It doesn't take much to surface bold, reasonable, desirable options. Some suggestions seem
doable in the short term; others will take long lead in planning and strategy. Among the suggestions that were coming included, "add a wilderness parcel to Fischer Park in New Braunfels." Some are working on that! Two former Boy Scout campers who grew up in the greater Houston area mentioned "our old camp by the 'Backbone' known as El Rancho Cima." One was aware the property was for sale but wasn't aware it is being offered in several parcels. The other wondered if anyone(s) would consider trails and camping for the public. Again, I said some of us seek to address this creatively with the County to help a big dream bloom. Are there readers who'd help? Come aboard via our website! Dry Comal Creek which continues to expand and seeks volunteers got mentioned as well. Possibilities abound! Resources are a tougher challenge. Strong energetic involvement is a current invitation by groups working in the County and City!
Some of this reflection comes as our national summer holiday approaches. The traditional gatherings for many of us will be curtailed or impossible. As an alternative, consider a walk beneath the canopy and absorb the gifts of shade and wonders of frequently ignored gifts in the natural involvement. For me that'll include whistling as I go some of the traditional favorite music for the day such as "America, America the Beautiful, Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "This Land is..." along the way. To be sure, this year will include in the repertoire the timely "We Shall Overcome." The songs in the wooded trail will not mend all that challenges but will lift sights and hopes as the journey continues. Carry a flag if you wish. Join in a safe and distanced way the hikers and bikers this year! Savor the beauty and wonder of this land that is our land!
If you have favorite trails in Comal County, modest or bold dreams of additions, take them to our website at comalconservation.org. We'd love to hear from you this way and begin a conversation/discussion. Such dialogue is welcome and encouraged.
For Your Health
Hiking Trails in Comal County
COUNTRY LINE MEMORIAL TRAIL — EASY
County Line Memorial Trail is a 3.4 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for walking and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
CANYON LAKE CHAMGER OF COMMERCE
Park at the Canyon Lake Chamber of Commerce and enjoy a nice .3 mile stroll just behind the main building.
MADRONE TRAIL — DIFFICULT
Canyon Lake, TX
Nice and rocky 7.6 mile trail that winds it’s way through a peninsula on Canyon Lake. This is a popular mountain biking trail as there are lot of rocky challenges. Cool off in the lake after a hike or ride. Park fee may apply.
MADRONE TRAIL LOOP — EASY
The Madrone Trail Loop is a 1 mile loop in a great forest setting. The trail is good for all skill levels, although it is pretty rocky in sections. Dogs are permitted on this trail.
CANYON LAKE GORGE — EASY
Canyon Lake Gorge is a guided 2.6 mile out and back trail offering scenic views and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching and is best used from March until October.
JAMES CURRY NATURE CENTER — EASY
Canyon Lake (1889 Skyline Drive)
James C. Curry Nature Loop is a beautiful 0.9 mile walking trail located on a 52 acre valley near Canyon Lake, Texas that offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips. It's open from sunrise to sunset. No motor vehicles are allowed, and please clean up any pet messes.
OVERLOOK PARK (CANYON LAKE DAM LOOP) — EASY
Overlook Park trail is a .6 mile loop that encompasses a swimming area and a dam. It's good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching and is best used from April until September
OLD HANCOCK TRAIL — EASU
Great trail for hiking and horseback riding. Trail follows the lake line and has very little elevation gain. The trail is a good spot for beginner bicyclists who want to try going off-road for the first time.
GUADALUPE RIVER SOUTH NATURE TRAIL — MODERATE
Guadalupe Park is located below Canyon Dam along the first mile of the Guadalupe River. It features an ADA-accessible parking lot and trailway with fishing pier on the north side. A foot trail is available along the river on the south side of the park. The river can be accessed from the trails for fishing. Please have a state fishing license.
No restroom, camping or picnic facilities are available in the park. Sometimes a portable toilet is provided. The nearest restroom facility is located at nearby Overlook Park near the southern end of Canyon Dam. Overlook Park closes at sunset daily.
GUADALUPE RIVER STATE PARK
There are many different trails in this wonderful park: hiking trails, walking trails, dogs leash trails and more. Just looking to take a quick stroll? There are nine easy trails in Guadalupe River State Park ranging from 0.7 to 5.1 miles and from 1,062 to 1,233 feet above sea level. Start checking them out and you'll be out on the trail in no time!
Entrance Fees Adult: $7 Daily Child 12 Years and Under: Free
KLECK PARK — EASY
Kleck Park was donated by the Helena Kleck Vivian Living Trust to Comal County on March 6, 2014. The trails are covered with native mulch and provide a stunning view of the natural hill country beauty. Drinking water is not available, so be sure to bring plenty of water as you enjoy this beautiful gift. Kleck Park is located on Stahl Ln, between FM 1863 & Hwy 46.
HONEY CREEK STATE NATURAL AREA — MODERATE
Entry into Honey Creek is by guided tours only. The diverse geology, flora and fauna make Honey Creek a special place for all visitors using two miles of nature/interpretive trails. No pets are allowed in this State Natural Area.
PANTHER CANYON NATURE TRAIL — EASY
Panther Canyon Nature Trail is a 1.7 mile out and back trail featuring a lake. It's good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, running, nature trips, and bird watching. Dogs on leash are permitted.
DRY COMAL CREEK — EASY
Dry Comal Creek is a 2.3 kilometer moderately trafficked loop trail that features a great forest setting and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
LANDA PARK LOOP — EASY
Landa Park Loop is a 1.2 mile moderately trafficked loop trail that features a lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
FISCHER PARK LOOP — EASY
Fischer Park Loop is a 1.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail that features a lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and running. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
HERITAGE MUSEUM OF TEXAS HILL COUNTRY — EASY
The Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country is a multi-acre layout located midway between Startzville and Sattler on FM 2673. While the museum has over 200 dinosaur tracks and 28 separate trackways made approximately 110 million years ago and is a must see, there is also a lovely hiking trail near the museum. Address: 4831 FM 2673, Canyon Lake, Texas 78133 Phone number: 830-899-4542.
New Braunfels Seeks Funds for Dry Comal Creek Trail Work
By Steve Knight
May 10, 2021
May 10, 2021
New Braunfels city leaders hope to take the first step soon toward constructing the Dry Comal Creek hike and bike trail, a project ranked as one of the city’s top strategic priorities.
Officials envision the Dry Comal Creek Greenway as a linear trail park that will connect neighborhoods with local destinations, existing and future trails and provide recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.
Plans call for the trail, a 10-foot wide concrete multi-use path with public Americans with Disabilities Act access as well as for bicyclists, walkers and runners, to span about 0.75 miles in length between North Walnut Avenue and Landa Street and about 0.35 miles between Landa Street and Elizabeth Avenue.
The project is one section of a larger part of the proposed Dry Comal Creek Greenway that could eventually connect to the Little League ballfields and Loop 337.
But a funding source is needed before putting those plans into place.
City officials placed the project as its top priority for transportation alternatives funding to the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is a special funding allocation for bike and pedestrian improvements.
“This project has been part of our hike and bike trail vernacular for the last several years,” said Ylda Capriccioso, the city’s park development manager, during a recent presentation to members of the New Braunfels Economic Development Corporation. “We’ve included it in various strategic master plans. We did complete a specific master plan for the Dry Comal Creek Greenway with the National Park Service in 2019. It’s often incorporated into one of the opportunity areas for the hike and bike trail plan. This was one of the projects that qualifies as a good candidate for those transportation alternative dollars.”
If awarded for AAMPO funding, the city would be responsible for 20% of the construction match, which is currently estimated at $500,000. The cost for the total project, including design and construction, is estimated at $2.85 million.
The city completed the preliminary design for the project in 2018.
A proposed project expenditure under consideration, a contract with Bain Medina Bain estimated at $340,960, would fund the project’s final design to include civil, survey, environmental, wayfinding, materials testing and landscape architecture.
The NBEDC did not take action on the proposed expenditure, pending the funding decision by AAMPO expected to take place in August.
In January, members of the New Braunfels City Council adopted the first update to the hike and bike trail plan since 2010. The plan identifies on and off-street trail connections to neighborhoods, parks, schools and commerce throughout the city and its extraterritorial jurisdiction.
With its significant growth since 2010, the city reevaluated its completed trail inventory, adopted standards for trails, identified new and expanded opportunities to implement the trail vision, and incorporated newly adopted planning studies.
The plan also provides staff, elected and appointed officials, the development community and citizens a more accurate picture of current trails and future corridor planning and implementation efforts.
The completion of the Dry Comal Creek Trail was ranked sixth out of 16 NBEDC strategic priorities, and this expenditure would mark the first section of the trail’s construction.
In a related item, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department received the 2021 Planning Excellence Award for the Dry Comal Creek Greenway Master Plan it conducted with the National Park Service during a city council meeting last month.
The award from the Texas Recreation and Park Society recognizes one planning project which displays a high degree of professional analysis, quality planning principles and organizational or city/county/statewide value. The award is also meant to encourage and expand the cooperation between planning consultants and parks and recreation professionals.
City Council Adopts Updated Hike and Bike Plan for New Braunfels
By Steve Knight
Jan 12, 2021
Jan 12, 2021
New Braunfels City Council members on Monday voted 6-1 adopting an update to the city’s 2010 hike and bike trail plan, which the city will use as a trail and greenway planning tool to enhance its transportation and park network. Council member Harry Bowers cast the sole no vote on the item.
City leaders adopted a hike and bike trail plan in 2010, which identified existing and proposed on- and off-street park connections to neighborhood/community parks, schools, and commerce.
That effort was later incorporated in the 2012 Regional Transportation Plan to identify transit and bike/pedestrian needs, alternative transportation networks and connections.
However, the city’s population has continued to grow since the adoption, prompting an updated plan to address population growth and the increasing interest in hike and bike trails.
“We were trying to refresh that old 10-year outdated map,” said Ylda Capriccioso, the city’s park development manager. “We wanted to make sure that the city’s inventory (of completed trail projects) was reflective of many of the changes that have happened in the last 10 years.”
Capriccioso also told council members, the plan update also incorporates newly adopted planning studies, creates a reference guide for standards in New Braunfels based on nationally recognized trail and greenway standards and identifies new trail opportunities.
According to the adopted plan, those new trail opportunities include:
The eight areas of future opportunities, according to Capriccioso, are based on 2010 recommendations, the 2017 Park Strategic Plan, Envision New Braunfels, development activities and other city plans.
“We did not modify this list (from 2010),” she said. “ We went back through this list with the consultant and internally to say, ‘what kind of information can we provide to make these particular trails more relevant.’”
Bowers, who represents District 3 on the city’s northwest side, said he was voting no on the measure because none of the proposed trail opportunities are located in that district.
“It’s nothing to do with the work that the (parks and recreation) staff has done or what the consultant has done — I want to make that abundantly clear,” Bowers said. “My vote is not against what the staff is doing, but in good faith, I’m not a fan of excluding a single district from opportunities.”
Bowers added that he did not believe the exclusion of projects on the opportunity list was intentional.
The update also gives city staff, elected officials, development and residents current information on trail corridor planning efforts and will be a planning tool to assist the city in acquiring land for hike and bike trail corridors.
Council members said they would like to revisit city ordinances that prohibit vehicular use, such as ATVs, golf carts or the use of non-maintenance vehicles on hike and bike trails in the near future to determine if stronger language is needed.
The plan and interactive maps are available online at www.nbtexas.org/parks.
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board recommended approval of the plan at their meeting on July 21. The Planning Commission approved the plan at their meeting on Sept. 2.
100-mile Trail Connecting Austin to San Antonio Could Spring $55 Million in Benefits
By Melissa Gaskill
July 14, 2021
July 14, 2021
A proposed 100-mile network of trails from the Alamo to the Capitol could generate more than $55 million in annual economic, health, and other benefits, according to a recent report released by the Great Springs Project. The project envisions trails traversing protected lands and the Edwards Aquifer to link four iconic Texas springs: Barton, San Marcos, Comal, and San Antonio Springs.
Though final trail routes remain to be determined by a Trails Plan, scheduled for completion by December of this year, the report uses a best estimate of those routes based on the springs, existing trails, and local trail plans.
“This report is one of the first steps in the trails plan,” says Emma Lindrose-Siegel, Great Springs Project chief development officer. “Part of it was being able to articulate why this work is valuable, to point to the benefits of the trail itself and the goal of conserving 50,000 acres of land.”
The analysis estimated the number of bicycle and pedestrian trips on the trail system, the corresponding reduction in vehicle trips and vehicle-miles traveled, potential benefits that would accrue once the entire trail system is constructed, and ecosystem services associated with land conservation along the trail corridor.
“Trails make us healthier, and access to outdoors is a reason people want to live here,” Lindrose-Siegel says. “We wanted to quantify that for the community and our stakeholders.”
Estimated economic benefits total $23.3 million, including estimated spending on goods, services, and lodging from non-local visitors to the trail. Transportation benefits of $11.4 million include fewer vehicle miles traveled and associated reduction in congestion, collision, roadway maintenance costs, and vehicle emissions. Estimated health benefits, $1.8 million, factor in increased physical activity and the resulting decrease in healthcare costs. Ecosystem services benefits total an estimated $19.2 million. These include improved water quality, stormwater management, wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration.
Preserving 50,000 acres of undeveloped land and reducing emissions as a result of fewer car trips (replaced with biking or walking trips) produce the
carbon sequestration benefits. An estimated 5,500 walkers and runners and 4,800 cyclists are expected to use the trail each day.
Lindrose-Siegel cites growing crowds on existing area trails, along with the number of people projected to use the Great Springs routes, as evidence of the need for the project.“
We anticipate people traveling to the trail for recreation, or going the whole Alamo-to-the-Capitol distance. There will be people who, say, live in Kyle and want to go to San Marcos and not get on I-35,” she says. “We anticipate a lot of bikers and trail users will be people using it for transportation.”
On comparable trails, 33 percent of trail users are not from the area. If that holds here, it represents an estimated 1.1 million non-local users per year — who will spend money on food, entertainment, bicycle rental, lodging, and the like. Additional economic benefits could include jobs related to trail construction and maintenance.
All the projections are based on usage estimates and survey results from similar trail systems in Texas and throughout the Southeastern United States, extrapolated through the use of various multipliers from national studies and quantified in terms of monetary value where appropriate.
The report also highlights the use of the natural infrastructure of conserved land to reduce catastrophic flood damage and save millions of dollars per year. Texas anticipates $31.5 billion in statewide flood mitigation costs during the next 10 years.
“That’s an important part of the report, highlighting the role of strategic land conservation in reducing catastrophic flood damage,” Lindrose-Siegel adds. “Sometimes it can be hard to see why an investment in trails is worthwhile, but as this report shows, it has so many benefits. Being able to quantify and articulate that in a way that people can relate to really helps build support for this project, which is going to have a meaningful impact on people’s lives for decades to come.”
The report was produced with guidance from Alta Planning + Design and the National Park Service.
Great Springs Project Envisions a Network of Trails From Austin to San Antonio
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June 28, 2020
June 28, 2020
Twenty-seven years ago, Deborah Morin watched as the hills, streams, caves, and springs of the Hill Country outside of Austin were being gobbled up by construction.
At the time, Morin was serving on the board of the Hill Country Foundation, where she was involved with efforts to map the watershed for the Barton Springs portion of the Edwards Aquifer outside of Austin.
The vast majority of that land is in private hands, meaning the health of the aquifer and Barton Springs was mostly dependent upon the decisions of private landowners. In Morin’s view, government regulation alone wouldn’t protect these sensitive waterways or preserve the land for generations.
“It doesn’t matter how many laws, how many rules you have,” Morin told the Rivard Report earlier this month. “You have to buy it.”
Trails & Economic Development
Trails and green space are important community amenities that help to spur economic development. From home owners choosing to live along a park-like trail to bicycle tourists making their way from small town to small town, trails are important community facilities that attract people and dollars.
The relationship between well-designed green spaces and trails and economic development has long been understood. Fredrick Law Olmsted, the renowned landscape architect, conducted the first economic impact analysis of urban parks on Central Park, finding a strong positive relationship between this new amenity and property values. The evidence of the positive impact of green space on adjacent land values became “conventional wisdom” (Crompton 2001, p. 9) for park planners and was used to fuel the early park movement in communities around the country. But with increasing competition for scarce resources, this conventional wisdom on the value of parks for economic development was supplanted by wariness to invest in purely recreational resources.
Over the last decade, however, community leaders and planners, buoyed by sophisticated new economic studies, have once again begun to use greenways, urban parks and trails as economic engines for community
revitalization. Mounting new evidence shows an almost universal positive connection between well-designed open spaces and trails and important economic development indicators. As Donna Erickson, author of MetroGreen: Connecting Open Space in North America (2006), recently pointed out, trails and greenways are helping “shape urban growth, contribute [to] critical environmental values, and, indeed, place economic development and neighborhood revitalization”
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