A 30-plus mile regional pedestrian trail extending from Austin to San Marcos could be in the works.
The plan, through the efforts of Hays County, Buda, Kyle, San Marcos and the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, would promote better connectivity in the area.
Mark Taylor, board president of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance (SMGA), said the concept behind the proposed Emerald Crown trail is connecting the southern part of the Violet Crown trail in the Austin area to Purgatory Creek in San Marcos via trails in Buda, Kyle and San Marcos.
Taylor said San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance is a nonprofit group that has been in charge of the upkeep and protection of the San Marcos trails since 1998 at no cost to the city.
Taylor described this particular project and the Alliance’s part in it as “a catalyst for cooperative efforts of the partners and stakeholders involved.”
Taylor said the stakeholders are the Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust, the Meadows Center, the Hill Country Conservancy, Take-a-Hike San Marcos and the Texas State University Geography Department.
Taylor said funding sources for the project were uncertain, but that the Meadows Center at Texas State was very good at finding funding sources for these types of projects.
Conceptual renderings of the proposed trail show a wide, two-way traffic trail where people could walk or bike the entire way over a paved or natural trail.
Other reasons for constructing the trail are connecting communities, recreation in parks and natural areas, and the health of residents.
Buda Assistant City Manager Micah Grau said Buda takes a “multi-modal” approach to transportation and isn’t ruling out the proposed regional trail as a viable transportation option for some residents.
Grau said funding for the proposed regional trail project was not identified in Buda’s Capital Improvement Project (CIP) list, but that staff would need to have a discussion with Buda City Council members in the next few months to address their desired level of involvement in regional projects.
Taylor said instead of acquiring eminent domain to get the right of way (ROW) for the trail path, SMGA would be working with landowners and developers to find win-win opportunities for everyone while still getting the trail constructed.
Taylor said the work group involved in the planning of the Emerald Crown trail have approved ground rules, come up with a vision for the project and engaged with a Texas State Geography geographic information system (GIS) group for preliminary mapping of possible trail routes.
The next steps for the work group include setting up public workshops in area communities as early as March 2018, developing a master plan for the regional trail, and identifying possible funding sources and beginning construction.
Taylor said the proposed project might take longer than others to be completed due to the cooperation efforts of multiple cities/entities.