Emerald Crown Trail: Network of county trails closer to fruition

The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance (SMGA), in partnership with San Marcos, Kyle, Buda and other park development agencies, is looking for a way to connect the three biggest cities in Hays County with a trail.

The Emerald Crown Trail is a proposed transportation trail that will serve Hays County in non-motorized transit. Unlike other recreational trails in the area, Emerald Crown is a means for citizens to get from point A to point B.

The proposed trail is a joint operation within Hays County.

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SMGA has spoken to the Hays County Commissioners Court, San Marcos and Kyle city councils, and will speak to the Buda council on Feb. 20.

No cost estimates have been part of the discussion yet and the SMGA is looking to get county and state support at this point in the development.

“Once we speak to all of the cities, we will have public workshops which will tentatively be held on the 27, 28 and 29 of March,” said Mark Taylor, president of the SMGA. “We’re still trying to gauge whether the community wants to buy into this project along with our city entities.”

Funding for the park could come from local funds, Texas Park and Wildlife Department, grant programs, private organizations and state or federal transportation funds.

“It’s too early to tell, but the goal is to have accessibility for bikes, joggers and walkers,” Taylor said.  “If we decide to build our trail with concrete or pavement, which would suit bicycles, we could potentially receive transportation infrastructure funding.”

The SMGA has received help from the Texas State University Geography Department, where students utilize GIS mapping technology to potentially outline the trail’s development during its early stage.

The trail could potentially cause dispute with landowners on the proposed development site, but the SMGA wants to work with citizens to ensure the trail does not tamper with anyone’s way of life.

The public workshops will serve as a catalyst for community input. Taylor said he has not heard any opposition to the project, but there may be concerned citizens.

Kyle City Councilman Damon Fogley said the trail could serve as viable transportation for the county, especially in Kyle where there is no current public transportation.

Fogley often takes recreational bike rides in Austin, since Kyle does not currently have an intricate trail system.

Working as a paramedic in Austin, Fogley said the trail causes initial concerns about public safety and accessibility for city officials and EMS. Discussion on accessibility in the event of a rescue situation would need to be involved in the trail’s development, he said.

When more information is presented, city council will look at how the trail will be funded. The city will need to assess if the trail requires a yearly maintenance cost, which will be discussed with all cities involved, Fogley said.

“I’m in support of it,” Fogley said. “From an environmental perspective, we need to tackle more ways to improve our carbon footprint. We don’t have public transportation and this is a great idea if we can fund it properly.”

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