Longtime San Marcos resident Kris North looked out her kitchen window one morning to find dozens of bulldozers prepping the land to build condominiums. It was at this moment she formed the basis for the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance.

Since 1998, the nonprofit organization has continuously worked to protect quality of life through the creation of interconnected parks and natural areas as well as through conservation, stewardship and educational outreach for people in the San Marcos area.

Why it matters

“We know that if the public is not involved in natural areas, then they will not be appreciated, and then we might lose them,” alliance member Melani Howard said.

The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance celebrated its 25th anniversary Aug. 12, and members have worked to create a nearly completed greenbelt called The Loop & Check that connects San Marcos’ rivers and streams to local natural areas and neighborhoods.

“The Loop & Check is important because it provides some trail corridors for the animals; they need those spaces connected,” Howard said.

The backstory

Although the nonprofit organization has been a pillar for the San Marcos community, the organization would not be where it is today without the help of two key players.

The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance gives credit to Inga Van Nynatten, who worked for San Marcos Park Services in late 1998, for the role she played in helping set the organization’s goals and form connections.

“Inga said if you’re going to be an organization, you have to have a vision and a mission. She said, ‘What is your vision? Does it have to be realistic? What would your dream be for a future San Marcos, you would like to see?’” founding member Sherwood Bishop said.

The members decided they wanted a loop of green space around the city.

Howard also noted Richard Salmon, who worked for the San Marcos Parks & Recreation Department, as a key player.

“He brought in money for natural areas like crazy. And that was, later, a big boost to natural areas in San Marcos,” Howard said.

Looking back

Bishop said it had been challenging working with some developers and San Marcos City Council members over the years when it came to land acquisition.

“A lot of our acquisitions have been very close calls,” Bishop said.

Although the nonprofit has faced numerous challenges over the past 2 1/2 decades, Howard said bonds, grants and working with the San Marcos River Foundation have allowed the group to overcome many of those challenges.

In addition to the kiosks placed at park entrances and restoration acreage, Howard said the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance has created different designations for parkland areas. This includes designations for natural areas that are open to the public with trails and benches as well as another designation dedicated to water quality.

“There may be one trail that goes through it, but it’s only for the purpose of connecting other parkland,” Howard said. “It’s not for opening it up to other trails because it's for water quality, and I think that’s a neat accomplishment.”

Looking ahead

In the future, the organization plans to find a place where it can store tools along with office space and meeting rooms. Howard said building a nature center at Purgatory Creek would be “ideal,” but the members are looking at other options as well.

Lend a hand

The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance has two main groups of volunteers: the Trail Crew and the Outreach Team.
  • The Trail Crew focuses on removing invasive species, building and installing trail markers, and more.
  • The Outreach Team is responsible for hosting educational activities, increasing awareness, fundraising and more.
Those interested in volunteering can visit www.smgreenbelt.org/volunteers.