About 31 acres of land east of I-35 near Stokes Park will be preserved thanks to a donation from the builder of The Woods of San Marcos apartments.
The tract of land, which surrounds Willow Springs Creek and includes the south side of the San Marcos River between I-35 and Cape Street, was given to the San Marcos River Foundation. The property will likely be used as parkland in the future, according to SMRF Executive Director Dianne Wassenich.
“I guess they developed all they wanted to develop on it, and they felt it would be best used as permanent river protection and [a]park,” Wassenich said about the donator, The Woodlands of San Marcos LLC.
According to the Hays County Appraisal District, the land was appraised at $2.72 million in 2017.
The area is zoned Future Development, which is intended for land that is relatively undeveloped and/or agricultural in nature. This designation is the default district for newly annexed land that is not yet ready to be zoned for a particular intended use.
The property line sits just outside the controversial 150-year-old Cape’s Dam, which City Council voted to remove in March 2016. The dam currently remains in place, damaged by years of flooding. SMRF supports its removal, saying the dam is harming the river in its existing state.
In an October 2016 Protect San Marcos blog post, Parks & Recreation Advisory Board member Paul Murray said The Woodlands of San Marcos LLC—which is based in Athens, Georgia—would benefit from a “successful campaign to rebuild Cape’s Dam.”
“We don’t need to find a trail of dollars from Athens, Georgia, to San Marcos to see now why The Woodlands of San Marcos LLC would love to see an amenity built with public money at this point in the river,” he wrote, adding a newly rebuilt dam would “greatly enhance the property values” of the apartment complex owned by The Woodlands of San Marcos LLC.
Wassenich said foundation staff and volunteers will do a walkthrough and trash cleanup on the property soon.
“There’s a lot of open fields; it’ll be great for kids to play and run,” she said.
The foundation has already been in contact with the city in the hopes the land is included in the city’s parks master plan, which is undergoing an update.
Wassenich said the foundation is also looking at obtaining a conservation easement, which would ensure the property would be maintained, according to the landowner’s wishes and would allow the owner to qualify for tax benefits.
In a statement, SMRF board President Stephen Ramirez said he was ecstatic about the donation.
“We are intimately familiar with the significance of parks and preserves along the river for both our community and the environment so we knew we wanted to accept this gift,” he said. “The property’s riparian woodlands and grasslands habitat will be protected forever and become an invaluable resource for our community.”