With a majority vote by the Hays County Commissioners Court, the Nature Conservancy, in partnership with Hays County, is now free to move forward with a planned acquisition of more than 530 acres of the historic El Rancho Cima. The acquisition is slated to officially close on Nov. 22 and represents a $13 million effort to safeguard an iconic piece of the Texas Hill Country.
The area supports a number of wildlife, aquatic and rare plant species that are threatened by accelerating development. The acreage has been specifically identified as habitat for the federally endangered golden-cheeked warbler.
On top of the property’s ecological importance, it’s also one that the public has long wanted to see protected. The property was previously owned by the Sam Houston Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which operated it as part of its historic El Rancho Cima camp for more than 60 years. Scouts from across Texas came to this property, hiked in its hills and swam along the shores of the Blanco River that runs through it.
The tract is situated 18 miles west of San Marcos along the Devil’s Backbone and includes frontage on both sides of the Blanco River.
The new acquisition is funded in part by Hays County, which will be contributing $7 million at closing using bond money set aside for environmental mitigation, including golden-cheeked warbler habitat protection. The Nature Conservancy will pay the remainder of the purchase price and will retain temporary ownership of the property. Hays County plans to eventually purchase the property at The Nature Conservancy’s cost and operate it as a public park and preserve–the Nature Conservancy will continue to hold a conservation easement on the land.