Letter To The Editor: Restore Cape’s Dam To Preserve Stokes Park And The Mill Race

San Marcos River 2017 | Photo by Corridor Media

“When my husband and I donated land to the Texas Parks and Wildlife to create John J Stokes Park, we were told that the 150-year-old historical features of this precious place would be preserved.”

City of San Marcos: Restore Cape’s Dam to Preserve Stokes Park and the Mill Race

When my husband and I donated land to the Texas Parks and Wildlife to create John J Stokes Park, we were told that the 150-year-old historical features of this precious place would be preserved.

I wish we had gotten this promise in writing because the City now wants to demolish Cape’s Dam, leading to the draining of the river channel at Mill Race and the extinction of the beautiful Thompson’s Falls, thus ruining the ingenious eco-structure built by early settlers in the area.

My husband loved Thompson’s Falls that was created by Capes Dam, and the meandering and easily navigable north channel of the river between the them.

When we donated it for public use we wanted to see this part of the river preserved for future generations to enjoy.

For people who are not familiar with this place it can be hard to envision how cleverly early settlers designed the Capes Dam structure to raise the river level and give the north channel a constant flow feeding the waterfall that drove a mill for early commerce—and today spills into one of the most beautiful little swimming holes on the river.

Capes Dam was damaged by flooding several years ago and obviously needs to be restored. But instead of restoration, the City chose a plan to demolish the dam, influenced by reports that have proven to be inconsistent with facts on the river.

While apparently well intended, expert recommendations to demolish the dam and “restore the river to its natural state” are based on erroneous data and do not fully consider the deleterious effects this would have on endangered species habitat, river navigability, safety of leisurely swimming, paddle boarding and historical structures.

False measurements were entered on state permits and then altered after they were notarized, and scrutiny of reports and permit applications has identified many inaccuracies that make it wholly inappropriate for any action to be taken without a full “Environmental Impact Statement”, and the thorough review procedures mandated by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) to avert mistakes in natural resource management.

A full account of concerns about this can be found in the NEPA/EIS review request in “Links and Reports” at www.savethesmtxriver.org.

We are happy to see that the City has listened to dissenting voices and is reconsidering the ill-informed decision to destroy Capes Dam and drain the north channel of the river.

But we are concerned that, instead of simply restoring the dam to the full height as designed by early settlers, the City is now considering poorly thought out alternatives, such as a plan to destroy the dam and dig out the north channel below it to drop the river level and cut the waterfall downstream to half its current height.

This is a terrible idea! Anything less than full restoration of Capes Dam will mar our respect for history, eliminate habitat for endangered species and spoil a precious recreational kayaking and canoeing resource for veterans, children’s groups and everyone who loves the river.

If you would like to add your voice to our appeal, please email Mayor_Council_Info@san marcostx.gov and tell the City to “Fully restore Cape’s Dam to preserve Stokes Park with a full bank of water down the North Channel.”

Destruction of this beautiful area would be a dishonor to the man whose generosity knew no bounds and who was determined to keep it pristine for future generations.

Additionally, it would be a violation of the trust he placed in the City and State to kill that part of the river.

~ Mrs. Fraye Stokes – San Marcos Resident


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  1. Michael Valdez

    The San Marcos River is one of the oldest in Texas, let’s preserve one of its oldest features for future generations to witness and enjoy.


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