The Hays County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) has announced their support for Cape’s Dam and the Mill Race and has encouraged the City Council to provide Cape’s Dam with a local historical landmark status on the basis that the Mill Race and Cape’s Dam allowed farmers to survive and thrive.
In September 2018, the San Marcos Historic Preservation Commission voted to submit a petition on behalf of the City of San Marcos to designate Thompson/Capes Dam and Ditch Engineering Structure as a local historic landmark.
The structure has been eligible for the National Register of Historic Places since 1985 and is considered significant to the history of San Marcos; it was originally built by William Alexander Thompson over 150 years ago.
The Commission voted on October 8, 2018, to approve a recommendation to City Council and Planning and Zoning for the designation to be approved.
However, in November, the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission voted to deny the designation.
Commissioner Ramirez said her reason for denying the designation was she did not feel it was the commission’s place to designate a manmade structure in the San Marcos River as a historic landmark.
According to SWCD, the Mill Race serves as a connection and reminder of San Marcos and Hays County’s agricultural past.
From a historic agricultural standpoint, the SWCD said they would like to remind the public and the San Marcos City Council of the agrarian history of the San Marcos area, where a gin and mill were operated, bringing prosperity to the area; some of the oldest water rights in the county fall just behind Cape’s Dam.
Hays County SWCD Treasurer and former Hays County Agricultural Extension Agent, Cliff Caskey said, “We know what we have, a historically significant dam, that serves as a reminder to the history of the San Marcos area. So, let’s keep it.”
According SWCD, all of its members agree that one of the first aspects that come to mind when the topic of protection of Cape’s Dam is brought up is the cost of removal and the unintended consequences that will follow removal regarding the Mill Race.
Josh Storm, Chairman of the Hays County SWCD said that, “It is the request of the Hays County SWCD that Cape’s Dam be left in place, which would sustain water flow down the Mill Race, reduce ongoing bank erosion, in turn preserving habitat for aquatic species and restore the historic integrity of the property, which was determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.”
The Soil and Water Conservation District is a subdivision of state government and is a board of five local agricultural, landowner representatives from specific areas of the county. Members are elected by their fellow landowners.
“Cape’s Dam is a historic structure that has been in place for 150 years; throughout this time, there has been habitat created for potentially threatened and endangered species such as Texas Wild Rice and Fountain Darter,” Storm said. “Removal of the dam will destroy this habitat and cause a situation where erosion will occur thereby creating a dangerous situation for recreational use by the community. In addition, repair of this structure would be significantly less costly to the county and its taxpayers.”
The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board is a state agency that administers Texas’ soil and water conservation law and coordinates conservation.
For more information about the Hays County Soil and Water Conservation District’s position on Cape’s Dam, you can email the SWCD at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hays County Soil and Water Conservation District’s letter of support joins several other organizations official support of the efforts of preserving the structure.
In October 2017, the Hays County Historical Commission released a letter giving their official support. The San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce took a stand on the issue in June 2017, and Texas Senator Donna Campbell sent a letter on September 27, 2018, to the San Marcos Historic Preservation Commission encouraging them to designate the structure a historic landmark. And in April of 2017, the Texas River Protection Group sent a letter of recommendations against the removal of Cape’s Dam to the City of San Marcos City Council.
The designation of a local historic landmark for Cape’s Dam will go before the San Marcos City Council at Tuesday’s, January 29, meeting.