Hays County Looks To Expanding Connectivity And Recreational Options With Capes Pond Project

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.

The Cape’s Pond Project 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.

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 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe, met with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which has a fish hatchery that is contiguous to the pond property.

Kennedy 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 aged 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 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 IH-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,” Ingalsbe said.

Ingalsbe said the project also brings environmental positives, including a riparian area along the river, bank stabilization, and other ecological benefits; 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,” Ingalsbe 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 their website.

The Capes Pond Project is only one of the County’s efforts to provide connectivity and recreational options to the East Side of San Marcos. 

In early June of 2019, the Hays County Historical Commission expressed interest in being involved in the creation of a conceptual master plan, according to the agenda, to preserve the 150-year old structure.

A proposal was brought before the Hays County Commissioners Court to approve an agreement with a consulting company for the creation of a conceptual master plan to preserve the 150-year-old structure.

The commission said it had identified funds in its general fund operating budget to cover the $5,187.50 contract with Vista.

The Hays County Historical Commission expressed interest in being involved in the creation of a conceptual master plan, according to the agenda, to preserve the 150-year old structure.

After the court approved the PSA, the county and commission officials presented a proposed of the partnership to repair the dam and turn the area into a park for residents on the East Side to the San Marcos City Council.

The following October, Vista provided the council with a presentation on the visioning study or Capes Dam, the Mill Race, Thompson’s Island, and the San Marcos River.

However, council members expressed concerns and raised questions regarding the impact on the health of the river.

In January 2020, San Marcos city staff was directed to have an additional study performed to provide the council with more information before they would reconsider the decision made by the council in 2013 to remove the dam.

Mayor Jane Hughson said she wanted to know if there was a way to rebuild the dam that would benefit the endangered species living in the river while still diverting water down the Mill Race.

San Marcos City Staff projected the council wouldn’t see the report on the RFP for up to eight months or more.

Due to COVID-19, City Manager Bert Lumbreras temporarily halted the process of preparing the RFP to determine whether the funding needed to be used elsewhere if possible.

However, during the council’s last discussion on the topic, Lumbreras said he had determined that the funding source for the project was not eligible to reallocated and staff would resume work.

On August 4, the City Council is slated to receive an update on Capes and provide staff with a scope of work for the Capes’ Dam Study Request For Proposal.

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