Residents of San Marcos, Buda and Kyle will soon have an opportunity to weigh in on 12 possible nature trails that could connect the three communities to each other and to South Austin.

The 12 conceptual trails connecting eight points are part of an effort by the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance to connect what it has dubbed the Emerald Crown Trail to the existing Violet Crown trail.

As part of their capstone project, three senior Texas State University geography students—Lucas Chavez, Julian Emerson and Emma Highberger—spent months gathering geographic information system data, such as soil data, land cover, land use and elevation, and manipulating the variables to produce conceptual trails that run from point A to point B, according to Chavez, the project manager.

SMGA said tree cover was the most desired criteria within the development of the trails, but the alliance also wanted to focus on the number of privately owned parcels the trails might cut through, Chavez said.

“They don’t want to diminish a lot of the land,” he said of SMGA.

Mark Taylor, SMGA executive director, said the alliance does not want to use eminent domain on parts of the trail that go through private properties.

He told Hays County commissioners during a meeting in January he would like it to be a concrete trail.

“This trail will be to get people from one place to another,” Taylor told Hays County commissioners, adding transportation was its primary goal. “I think we will ultimately find—if we’re able to put this project together—that our communities [will be] connected more closely. That includes not just the three cities but the rural areas.”

The trail will likely accommodate two-way traffic and have varying surface levels depending on the topography, Taylor said.

Students also provided SMGA with a breakdown of the type of land cover each of the trails has. For example, the trail that connects Violet Crown to La Cima is 80 percent forested.

Taylor said citizens can weigh in on which trails they prefer later this spring when the alliance holds open houses in Kyle, Buda and San Marcos. He said the next steps include holding the meetings, developing a conceptual and master plan, identifying funding sources, and determining a design and construction schedule.

“These trails, once developed and interconnected with the Violet Crown trail out to Austin, will be a one-of-a-kind type of recreation development,” the students report in the final report. “This will draw a certain tourist market of recreation-seekers who want to experience a scenic trail spanning the Hill Country.”