A recent property acquisition by Hays County is expected to enhance and expand regional connectivity and recreation options for County residents, in addition to providing environmental benefits.
Called the Cape’s Pond Project, it features a 5.8-acre pond located on 28.7 acres of property near the San Marcos River just east of I-35 and south of River Rd. The County acquired the land through a 2018 transportation bond. (See map below.)
According to Hays County General Counsel Mark Kennedy, the project was originally discussed as a key land acquisition to provide multi-modal transportation connectivity between currently disconnected areas of San Marcos and local hike and bike trail systems, including those that are in the planning stages.
The project took on an additional goal after Kennedy and other county officials, including Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe, met with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which has a fish hatchery that is contiguous to the pond property.
He said, “The Parks and Wildlife Department suggested that the pond could qualify for a TPWD grant program known as ‘Neighborhood Fishin’, which provides alternative outdoor recreational opportunities for local families – and children in particular.”
Those age 16 and younger fish for free. Any fish that meet Freshwater Bag and Length Limits can be taken and eaten.
Ingalsbe said she’s extremely pleased about the possible addition of the fishing program, but the connectivity that served as the original vision for this property remains vitally important.
“County Road 299, also known as Cape Road, is quite dangerous for any form of transportation other than cars,” she said. “Installing trails along this route would connect neighborhoods on the east side of San Marcos to existing trail systems that, after the I-35 underpass project is complete, will connect all parts of San Marcos.”
Ingalsbe added that the Emerald Crown Trail, which will originate in Kyle, is planned to terminate at the San Marcos River only a few hundred feet downstream of pond property. The Emerald Crown Trail will eventually link up with the Violet Crown Trail out of Austin.
“Connection to that trail system would connect San Marcos to much of the region,” she said.
Ingalsbe said the project also brings environmental positives, including a riparian area along the river, bank stabilization and other ecological benefits. She said the property will be minimally developed with a small carbon footprint, minimal parking and low impervious cover.
Kennedy said the property would also allow the County to provide an educational component by demonstrating the benefits of rain gardens and bioswales.
“There would also be drainage improvements on the property that would be integrated with other local projects,” he said.
Ingalsbe said the project was submitted to the Hays County Parks and Outdoor Spaces Advisory Committee (POSAC) for inclusion in a possible 2020 bond package. POSAC will deliver its recommendations on prospective parks and open space projects to the Hays County Commissioners on Tuesday, July 28.
The San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF) expressed its support of the Cape’s Pond project. The group’s current President, Victoria Condie, said it’s an important purchase for the residents of Hays County.
“SMRF is thrilled that the county purchased this property on the east side of I-35,” she said. “Located across the river from Stoke’s Park and adjacent to the fish hatchery, it has trees, beautiful wildflower fields, spectacular river frontage and a very large pond. The neighborhoods in the area will be very happy to see this become a park with fishing access and protection of the riverbank.”
For details about the TPWD ‘Neighborhood Fishin’ project, visit: https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/management/stocking/neighborhood-fishin.phtml).
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