President’s Note Winter 2017

More good news!! We just received word that the Friend’s Group will receive an additional $15,000 from the Holloman Price Foundation for the Savannah Restoration Project.  Historically, a large portion of the SNA consisted of an open grassland prairie, however, over time with European settlement, this grassland was converted to ranch and farm land and subsequently (with the suppression of natural fire and overgrazing) became overgrown with Ashe Juniper, Mesquite, and numerous non-native grass species.  The diversity of plant and animal life was significantly diminished which led to less than optimal ecosystem conditions. The Savannah Restoration Area is a prime example of SNA’s active restoration efforts and the Friends of Government Canyon are pleased they can help out.

The 370 acre Savannah Restoration Project is being approached in phases. The number of phases depends on the available funding. The phasing will also depend on how the savannah responds to the herbicide treatments, prescribed burning and plantings. The work in this initial phase will focus on treating the portions of the Savannah Restoration Area that have the worst woody vegetation growth…roughly 50-75 acres. Depending on how these worst areas respond to the treatment, TPWD/GCSNA may be able to move into plantings in phase one as well. It is estimated that total project will cost approximately $100,000. So additional funding will be necessary and we will be working with our supporters and friends in the future so this extremely important project can be completed. If you are interested in helping out on this project, please let me Superindendent Chris Holm know.  Thanks!

Peter Grojean, President

Grassland Project

Seeding operation for the fee booth field prairie restoration project in December 2016.

CAPACITY CLOSURES…A Few Words from the Superintendent

16665063_10155033539871543_7497855183605268236_oAs many of you know, the primary mission of Government Canyon State Natural Area is to conserve and manage our natural and cultural resources. Although the resources come first at Government Canyon, we do also have a secondary mission of providing sustainable access to outdoor recreation. As a result, we continually strive to maintain a balance between these two concurrent, potentially conflicting, mandates. Over the past several years, Government Canyon has experienced significant increases in visitation, culminating in record crowds in the Spring of 2016. This record level of demand for outdoor recreational opportunities threatens to offset the former balance between resource protection and recreation. The unprecedented visitation rates have led to long vehicular lines at entry points, congested interior roadways and trails, and limited parking —factors which can negatively affect user experience. Moreover, these same conditions strain park infrastructure and staff/volunteers and potentially compromise the integrity of our protected resources…with noted instances of increased litter, human and pet feces alongside trails, vegetation loss and increased erosion. Government Canyon is not alone as many other State Parks and State Natural Areas across Texas are experiencing similar crowding and negative impacts on the resources.

For these reasons, Government Canyon, along with many other sites around the state, have begun to implement “visitation calming” through capacity closures. These closures are currently determined by analyzing available parking, number of vehicles that have entered and the number of visitors. Once a closure is implemented, the Natural Area will close for a period of time (typically three hours) to allow for thinning of crowds and to ease some of the impacts mentioned above. Please know that, as a Natural Area, our goal is NOT to maximize visitation by “packing them in” and continuously filling all parking spaces. Our goals with capacity closures are to reduce the impacts to the resources (natural, cultural, infrastructure and staff/volunteers) as well as to provide a quality experience for you, the visitor.

As with any new process, we will continue to evaluate and fine-tune our methods. In fact, Texas State Parks has recently embarked on a statewide initiative to develop additional tools and methods to help site managers across the state gauge impacts and implement capacity closures when warranted.

Your patience, understanding and support of these efforts to protect Government Canyon State Natural are greatly appreciated. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about anything we do at Government Canyon, please do not hesitate to give us a call.

It’s Not to late to Join us for Our Recharge Run!

It’s not too late to join us for our 3rd annual Recharge Run fundraiser! Your entry includes a one-year membership to the Friends of Government Canyon (membership does NOT include free entry to GCSNA), race t-shirt, really cool swag bag, and a well-marked/well-supported courses with aid stations, and healthy post-race food and refreshments after the race!

Online registration ends at MidnightThursday, November 3rd. You can register in person at packet pickup at REI, Friday, November 4th, from 11am-7pm, or on race day morning at the picnic pavilion from 6:15-7:15am.

Don’t want to run, but would like to be a part of one of the coolest trail runs in San Antonio? We could use your help volunteering! All volunteers get a cool swag bag and a race t-shirt. If you are interested please contact Kimberly at kaubuchon@friendsofgc.org.

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Meet GCSNA’s New Ambassador

We are happy to announce that Government Canyon State Natural Area (GCSNA) has been partnered with a Texas State Park Ambassador. Jerry Sharp III has been serving as GCSNA’s Ambassador and was tasked with completing three projects in four months.

This is the first time an Ambassador has been paired up with GCSNA. The Texas State Parks Ambassador Program, which is part of Texas Park and Wildlife Department’s Community Outreach program, seeks to connect young adults with recreational, conservation and volunteer opportunities at Texas State Parks to foster a new generation of conservation-minded leaders in Texas.

Ambassador Sharp is a graduated from O’Connor High School and is currently a student at UTSA studying Public Administration and Environmental Science.  He is very active within the local community
 and is fascinated with the local history
. “I love anything that deals with water: creeks, rivers, aquifers
,” states Sharp.

Projects that Ambassador Sharp has completed during his term include the development of a neighbor newsletter that was  sent out to the immediate neighbors and Home Owner Associations of GCSNA, and set up Instagram and SnapChat accounts for the State Natural Area.  Sharp has also spearheaded a service project earlier this month planting thirty native trees in the large day-use parking area (where the front country trailhead is located and where the future home of the Nature Playscape and Amphitheater will be).

 “My goal is to show what Government Canyon and all of Texas State Parks for that matter, have to offer!” We are very excited to have had Ambassador Sharp as part of the team!

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Follow Government Canyon’s new Instagram account and tag us in all your photos you take at GCSNA! Use the hashtags:  #GovernmentCanyon #TxStateParks & #BetterOutside

Interested and want to learn more about the Ambassador program? Click here!”

Donor Spotlight – REI

The Friends of Government Canyon recently received a generous grant of $10,000 from REI to start the much-needed reconstruction of the most critical portions of the 4.5 mile Joe Johnston Route (JJR) trail at Government Canyon. This trail is the main artery to the backcountry – providing access to the dinosaur tracks, and serving as the main route for emergency access to the backcountry for trail building and restoration of all of the backcountry trails.

REI is also a sponsor of our Recharge Trail Run coming up Saturday, November 5. Thank you REI for all you do for the community!

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President’s Note Fall 2016

We currently have several projects underway at GCSNA.  Here’s a recap:

Interpretive Trail:  The project is nearing completion!  As you may remember we received $19,000 from Impact SA to kick start the project.  Superintendent Chris Holm has done the rest.  The total project costs, including “in-kind” services is approximately $145,000!  The 1.5 mile, fully accessible trail should be open by December 1st.  Check out the photo below showing current construction.

Native Grassland Restoration Project: This project was funded by a $20,000 grant from the Holloman Price Foundation.  Historically, a large portion of the SNA consisted of an open grassland prairie, however, over time with European settlement, this grassland was converted to ranch and farm land and subsequently (with the suppression of natural fire and overgrazing) became overgrown with Ashe Juniper, Mesquite, and numerous non-native grass species.  This project is coming along but some of the weeds are stout and additional treatments have been required.

Children’s Nature Playscape:  This project was partially funded by a $38,000 grant from the Kronkosly Foundation.  We had to raise a matching amount in order to receive the funds.  The project design has been completed by Bender Wells Clark Design.  The project construction has been estimated and has come in over our original projected budget.  Meeting with the contractor, designer and board members resulted in the cost coming down $16,000 but we are still approximately $21,000 over what we have reserved for the project.  The board is looking at additional fund raising to provide more funds since we like the design and don’t want to reduce the size or quality of the project.

Amphitheatre:  Did you know we had an Amphitheatre project?  Well we do, it is just in its planning phase.  Lake Flato Architects have generously agreed to donate design services for this project.  The project budget is $350,000.  The site is at the corner of Parking Lot C, where there are existing restroom facilities.  Stay tuned for more information… and opportunities to help!

Peter Grojean, President

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Help Restore the Joe Johnson Route

Your vote matters! Michelob ULTRA is helping well-hiked trails look beautiful again. Vote now and you could help restore the Joe Johnson Route.

Established by Michelob ULTRA, in partnership with the American Hiking Society, the “Go The Extra Mile Fund” is on a mission to restore local trails in communities across the country. Now through November 26th, Michelob ULTRA is donating a portion of every case sold with the goal of raising and distributing up to $200,000 between 12 deserving trail restoration projects. Help us reach our donation goal by purchasing Michelob ULTRA, and decide where these funds will go by voting for your favorite trail.

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Get Your Very Own Copy of “Let’s Hike to the Dinosaur Tracks”

On Sunday, May 8 Trail Patrol volunteer Kay Young and her grandson Kevin Love were on hand at the Visitor’s Center with their new book ““Let’s Hike to the Dinosaur Tracks at Government Canyon!” This fun book includes maps, information, activities and everything visitors need to know to prepare and explore the variety of theropod and sauropod tracks hidden in the Backcountry of San Antonio’s largest State Natural Area.

Young co-wrote the book with her grandson Love, who also supplied many of the photographs for the book. The books content was a collaboration of efforts from Young and Government Canyon SNA staff Teresa Casas and John Koepke. Dr. Thomas Adams, Curator of Paleontology & Geology of the Witte Museum, was also a valuable resource, contributing data and graphics for the book. Others who helped make the book possible include Maryann Morabito who supplied photographs, along with Jon and Wiede Cutshall and Vic and Kay Young who provided the funds for printing.

The book was truly a labor of love for all involved. You can get your own copy at GCSNA’s Visitor’s Center to help prepare for your next hike to the dinosaur tracks! Books are just $5; cash or check only please. All proceeds benefit Friends of Government Canyon.

dino book-2

 

North Park Subaru Makes Donation

Friends of Government Canyon (FoGC) board members along with Superintendent Chris Holm were on hand last month for a check presentation from North Park Subaru. Both North Park Subaru and North Park Subaru at the Dominion selected FoGC as their recipient for “Subaru Loves the Earth” month for the month of April. For each vehicle sold during the month of April, the local Subaru dealerships donated a dollar amount from each sale to FoGC.

A total donation of $4,100 was donated to the group. FoGC was selected as the recipient based on our mission of being stewards of the environment, which is a core value of Subaru.

Thank you so much North Park Subaru for this donation! FoGC is very grateful for being selected and hopes to partner with North Park Subaru in the future!

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The Golden-cheeked Warbler Remains Protected

By Iliana A. Peña, Director of Conservation, Audubon Texas; Board member, Friends of Government Canyon

warblersThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced June 3rd, 2016 that the Golden-cheeked Warbler will remain on the Endangered Species list.  The USFWS determined that a delisting petition submitted June 2015 did not present substantial enough information to warrant a delisting.

The USFWS put the warbler on the Endangered Species list in 1990 due to rampant conversion and fragmentation of its breeding habitat for urban and suburban development.  Here’s why that’s serious.  This bird is all-Texan. It cannot breed and raise its young anywhere else in the world except in the 33 counties that make up the Texas Hill Country. It builds its nests from the bark of mature junipers that grow in the unique and beautiful canyons and washes found at Government Canyon Natural Area and the surrounding hill country.

The USFWS reviews the warbler’s condition every five years to justify keeping it on the endangered list. In its most recent report in August 2014, the service recommended keeping the endangered classification because the bird “continues to be in danger of extinction throughout its range” due to “the ongoing widespread destruction of its habitat.”

State Natural Areas like Government Canyon are critical to saving our natural ecosystems providing key habitat for not only the Golden-cheeked Warbler but also the thousands of other plant and animal species that call this area home.  Golden-cheeked Warblers can be heard and sometimes seen at Government Canyon from mid-March to July.  In mid-March, golden-cheeked warblers begin arriving in central Texas from their wintering ground in Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Their stay in Texas lasts until about the end of July, when they leave to take advantage of more abundant winter food supplies south of our border.  For more information about Golden-cheeked Warbler please visit the Audubon Texas website http://tx.audubon.org/birds/priority-birds.