County beginning to make plans for new parkland

Opportunities for youth fishing and family hiking are among uses Hays County envisions for roughly 28 acres of property it recently purchased adjacent to the Cape’s Camp area and the A.E. Wood State Fish Hatchery in San Marcos.

The county purchased the tract known as the “pond property” earlier this year from the Cape family and closed on the deal a few weeks ago, Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe told the Hays Free Press.

The property had been for sale for years and the county is now in discussions about its future, to develop it “into a park system and trails that will hopefully one day connect to the west side of I-35,” she said.

A great deal of what happens there will be influenced by the actions of the San Marcos City Council, which has been considering the future of Cape’s Dam since the developers of the Woods Apartments deeded it to the city of San Marcos six years ago, along with adjacent parkland that has not been developed.

Some in the town and on the council want the dam restored, some want it transformed into a series of kayak rapids similar to Rio Vista, and some want the dam removed entirely. The council voted to remove the dam in 2014 when there was federal funding available under the “fish pass” program. However, that funding has since become less certain.

At the same time, San Marcos and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) are working on the continuation of a parks trail that will go under the interstate. Ingalsbe said the county is focusing its discussions on what to do with the property it now owns “until such time the city is ready to talk to us or partner with us.”

San Marcos City Council members most recently discussed the dam’s future in June and, after another study is performed, are primed to revisit the issue later this month. “Once the city makes that decision, we would be willing to work with them either way, whatever final decision they make,” Ingalsbe said.

She said the county is also in talks with the fish hatchery about possibly stocking the pond, making it an area where “folks can come out and fish and bring their families.”

Ingalsbe said she is personally supportive of the dam’s restoration. “I know there is a lot of historical significance with the dam and know it is important to many people.” However, she added, “Whatever happens in the end I hope we can still work together with the trails we’re trying to build where residents are able to go out for a hike and start there and end up on the west side. Connectivity for us is going to be really important. We want to have a really nice trail system.”

That part of the city and the county, she said, has been “underserved for quite some time” regarding public parks. “There’s nothing like that on the east side of the town and county. I think it would be a wonderful place for people to come and enjoy.”

There had been some talk of the city swapping the Cape’s Dam area for Five-Mile Dam and Park, which is owned and managed by the county. However, Ingalsbe said, that area was moved from her jurisdiction during the last round of redistricting. “So I haven’t been in a lot of those discussions — not to say we wouldn’t consider that. I think that is a possibility.”

Plans for the new parkland are the purview of the Parks and Open Space Commission, which will recommend funding to the commissioners.

“The court will possibly look at a bond election in November although we also understand the situation we’re currently in with COVID-19. We’re going to have to think about that and how that’s going to affect our taxpayers.”
The decision on whether to call the election will be made in August.

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