Landowners raise concerns about impact of proposed trail system

Placing public green space on private land was the crux of concerns from residents opposed to a proposed regional trail system that could connect Austin to San Marcos.

Those opinions were gathered during a series of public meetings in San Marcos, Buda and Kyle March 27-29 on the Emerald Crown Trail. The meetings were meant to gather resident and land owners feed back on the trail, which is only proposed at this time.

Because the trail is still in the early stages, the exact route of the trail is unknown. The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, which is spearheading the effort, anticipates the trail to start somewhere in Purgatory Creek in San Marcos and finish at the end of the Violet Crown Trail in Buda.

The idea is to try to create a connected system of trails and bike-able paths using public parks, public right-of-ways and through willingly donated easements.

While some residents seemed excited about the trail system, others were visibly upset. A group of neighbors along Hilliard Road posted comments on sticky notes on maps and feedback forms around the room disagreeing with the project.

During the meeting, Mark Taylor, former board president of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, made a point to have all group members in the project agree that they would not build a trail where people do not want one.

Ruth Molina, a resident of Valley View Estates along Hilliard Road does not have a lot of trust in the project; she and her neighbors are still worried about eminent domain.

I feel like a lot of the parties involved have a hidden agenda, they are making nice up front, and theyre trying to make San Marcos into another Austin or San Antonio, and were not. Were losing a lot of the character that makes our town what it is,§ Molina said.

Molina added she is “all for green spaces on future developments,” but felt developers of the trail shouldn’t place green space on private property.

Joyce Milburn, Molina’s neighbor, said she felt that they didnt get enough information about the trail system at the presentation. Other neighbors were worried about the road infrastructure being unable to handle more traffic, as well as a rise in crime rates associated with trails.

Kerry Urbanowicz, director of parks for the city of Kyle, said that he is not aware of any studies that show an increase in crime rates with the development of trails. Urbanowicz also thinks the trail system, even if just an outline, will help him make a plan for future developments and green spaces in Kyle.

I cant make developers build parks and trails without having a plan. So this plan is important for future development. Whether we like it or not, development is coming,§ Urbanowicz said. So we can make a park land dedication ordinance if weve got a plan.§

Katherine Sturdivant, park specialist with the Hays County Parks Department, liked the idea of a connected trail system in the county and believes it can even be a draw for future homebuyers.

But she also understands why some are against the idea.

They shouldnt feel obligated to share their land with us in any way, I just am really hoping that we can talk to some of these land owners and show them some of the benefits of having a trail on their property and the benefits of getting people on trails,§ Sturdivant said.

Sturdivant believed “theres a way” an agreement can be struck to where everyone can be happy.

The idea of the trail is based off of the Violet Crown Trail in Austin, and even named after it. The Violet Crown trail took roughly 20 years to complete and the group is looking at a similar, if not longer, timeline.

The group came up with the idea July 2017 and applied for support from the National Park Service.

Justin Bates with the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation and Assistance Program is offering services to help plan the trail.

This is a really long-term effort. Were at the stage of getting ideas of what the concept is and wed love for people to help us shape what they want their experience to be, what the trail heads should look like,§ Bates said.

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