President’s Note Spring/Summer 2016

Earlier in May, I and other members of the Board joined about 40 Impact SA representatives who were visiting the SNA for a day of learning and helping. Impact SA gave The Friends group $19,000 for the Interpretive Trail Project which is currently under construction.  One part of the group hiked the Joe Johnson Trail to the dinosaur tracks. The hike was led by Dr. Thomas Adams, Paleontologist for the Witte Museum. Another group did the Bluff Spurs Hike led by Marsha Meredith. And yet another group participated in a Wildscape Gardening service project. This group was led by San Antonio Master Gardeners and distributed mulch around the Visitor’s Center to various landscaping beds, helping these plants survive and flourish the upcoming dry & hot summer months. At the end of their lunch Chris Holm gave them a presentation on the SNA and then led a tour of the Interpretive Trail project which, when completed later this year, will be a terrific addition to the State Natural Area. As we discover so often, most people know very little about how the 12,244 acres were accumulated and who all the state holders are.

Impact SA’s mission statement is: “Impact San Antonio empowers women to make the most of their charitable donations to impact the Greater San Antonio community and the nonprofits that serve it.” Each member donates $1,000 a year. These funds are then used to give grants to projects that are selected through a rigorous vetting process.

It was a great feeling representing the Friends of Government Canyon. I was proud of our accomplishments, our board and volunteers. I was also encouraged by the willingness of Impact SA to learn more about the SNA and contribute time and resources to help even more. This is a great organization that does tremendous work in San Antonio. (Full disclosure – my wife is also a member.) We are fortunate to have this group and others in our surrounding areas that care deeply about the greater community and work to find ways to make it better.

Peter Grojean, President

Learn more about Impact San Antonio here.

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President’s Note – Winter/Spring 2016

 

leave no trace-3This is a time of transition for the Government Canyon State Natural Area.  This past October we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the SNA’s opening and much has changed and continues to change. At our recent board meeting, Superintendent Chris Holm reported that January’s visitation has increased 109% over the same period in 2015. Overall year to date visitation compared to this time last year is up by 41% and revenue up 23.2%. Those are amazing increases…but there is a down side, too. Chris also mentioned that due to increased visitation, more trash is being left behind on trails. Also, since there are limited staff resources, everyone is having to pull extra duty. Don’t be surprised when you visit the SNA to find Chris at the fee booth checking in visitors. Other staff members find themselves busy all day assisting visitors in parking vehicles. This results in less staff time for visiting with guests and briefing them on potential dangers and concerns from “looks like you could use some extra water,” to “please make sure you don’t take your dog out of the Front Country.”

The board was surprised to learn of the increase in trash on the trails. Trash sometimes is in the form of what most of us consider “biodegradable,” such as orange and banana peels, peanut shells, and other food related byproducts. While these items pick up stationwill degrade over time, they are not natural to the area and should not be discarded. To help inform visitors and provide a convenient solution, the Board has approved buying another animal proof trash and recycle container to be placed at the trailhead to the Joe Johnson trail.  And all “Friends” are encouraged to help educate other visitors to the SNA that nothing should be discarded along the trails.  Which reminds me, the same goes for our four legged companions in the Front Country. Some visitors are not picking up after their pets. While this too may be “biodegradable,” pet scat must be picked up and properly discarded.  The Board also authorized the purchase of Dog Waste Bag stations to be located along trails in the Front County.

The next time you visit the SNA please be sure to notice all that the staff is doing and let them know how much you appreciate their time and efforts. Also, we all have a responsibility to help educate the public (politely, of course) about leaving nothing behind, as in “leave no trace.”

In partnership,

Peter Grojean

President, FoGC Board

Government Canyon SNA Celebrates City Partnership This Sunday

On March 6th, all day-use entry into Government Canyon State Natural Area will be free to the public to celebrate their 16-year partnership with the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program and to say “thank you” to the citizens of San Antonio.

“We are very proud of the partnerships that created, and are still creating, this special place.” says Natural Area Superintendent, Chris Holm. “We would like to say ‘thank you’ to the citizens of this great city for their unwavering support over the years. It’s something that everyone should be proud of and is certainly worth celebrating.”

The free entrance day, which also coincides with the kick-off of the National Groundwater Association’s National Groundwater Awareness Week, will showcase the work that has been done to protect the lands over the Edward’s Aquifer Recharge Zone.

Representatives from the EAPP will also be on hand to promote awareness of the program and to answer any questions.  The public is encouraged to come out to learn about this partnership and spend the day experiencing all that their state natural area has to offer.

Through voter-approved bond funding, the unique partnership between the city and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department protects San Antonio’s primary water source, while helping the state natural area grow in size.

“Since 2000, the City of San Antonio voters have repeatedly approved aquifer protection funding, via a 1/8th cent sales tax, to the tune of $315 million,” says Holm.  “Over the past decade and a half, portions of this funding was used to protect lands that are now part of Government Canyon SNA.”

With a recent acquisition of 230 acres, Government Canyon SNA is now at roughly 12,249 acres, most of which was acquired under funding partnerships with the city, with several of these acquisitions including other partners, such as the Edwards Aquifer Authority, San Antonio Water System, the Trust for Public Lands, Bexar County, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. 

About Texas State Parks:

The Texas State Parks System’s mission balances outdoor recreation and sustainable use of resources with conservation and management of natural and cultural resources. The department operates 95 Texas state parks, natural areas and historic sites.

About the Edward’s Aquifer Protection Program:

The purpose of the City of San Antonio’s aquifer protection program is to protect the quality and quantity of water recharging into the Edwards Aquifer through the protection of land over the sensitive Recharge and Contributing Zones of the aquifer.

Kids Run Wild at GCSNA

By Kimberly Aubuchon

Park Ranger Niki Lake has been organizing Kids Runs at Government Canyon for the past year.  They have become wildly successful–approximately 40-60 future trail runners and their families participating in each one.  I caught up with Miss Lake at the “Wild at Heart” Kids Run that took place at GCSNA on February 13th and asked her why these runs are so important and why you should bring your little ones to the next one.

 

Why is it important to have a Kids Run?

I was looking for a way to get kids outdoors, into nature, and doing healthy activities. I am part of the Texas Children and Nature Network and one of the initiatives is health. Also, I feel like what people are looking for most when they come to GCSNA is recreation, and most of our programs are resource-based (as is our mission). That’s great, but there is something of a disconnect between what we want them to get out of this place, and what they want to get out of this place. I feel a way to get kids connected to the resource is to first get them out here on their terms, hopefully for repeated visits, and naturally over time they will want to know more about and protect the things they encounter while they are here, and maybe even attend our more nature-oriented programs. Also, I am a trail runner and volunteer for Girls on the Run (an after school running program) and know running is not only good for the body, but for the mind and spirit as well.

 

Are there handmade awards for the finishers at every Kids Run?

Yes. I now try to make awards out of natural or recycled materials, but thanks to the Friends of Government Canyon sponsoring each race, I can afford to make them a bit nicer and offer refreshments as well.

 

How long is the course and can Mom and Dad run with a stroller or with their kids?

The course is a one mile out and back on the Recharge Trail, the start/finish line is on the Recharge Trail near Parking Lot C.  There is a water stop at the ½ mile turn-around along with 2 volunteers to make sure the kids turn around. There is also water and sugar-free electrolytes at the start/finish.  Parents and family are more than welcome to run with their children. We just ask that those with strollers please start at the back of the starting area.

 

How often do the Kids Runs take place and how much do they cost?

The next one is scheduled for Saturday, March 26th, 4-5pm.  We are offering one per month at least through May, and will start back up in October. The entry fee to GCSNA is $6 or free with a TPWD Park Pass, but there is no cost for the Kids Run. Also, be sure to arrive at least an hour early to get parked, to the start line and get your children checked in before the run begins.

 

How do you register for the Kids Runs and is there a limit on the amount of participants?

The race doesn’t have a cap, but we ask people to email niki.lake@tpwd.texas.gov with the number of kids they are bringing to be sure we have enough awards and refreshments. If you like us on Facebook you will get the Kids Run event info, as well as event updates. It is really helpful for people to register by the Thursday before as all the medals are handmade, but I would never turn away a kid who wants to run!

 

What is your most memorable kids run moment to-date?

That’s a hard one! Every time I am inspired by the joy the kids get out of their accomplishment, and just how far a small shout of encouragement goes towards their confidence and willingness to try harder. I think the most impressive thing I saw was a 2 year old who walked the entire mile, even though it took a while, would not be carried at all. She was determined to do it all on her own, and she did! I also just love to see the kids enjoying each other’s company.

 

We hope to see you and your young ones at the next Kids Run on March 26th, 4-5pm.  Make sure you bring your camera—not only are the wildflowers popping up, but the little runners are so cute, and you’ll want to definitely share those on Facebook.

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The future of Texas State Parks looks bright — exceedingly bright!

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Last month, Texas Park and Wildlife announced that thanks to passage of landmark bills by the 84th Legislature, Texas State Parks will receive 94 percent of state sales tax revenue attributed to sporting goods, and more flexibility to spend these dollars where they are most needed.

“Every Texan deserves a world class state park system,” said Rep. Lyle Larson of San Antonio, who co-authored HB158. “The dedication of the sporting goods sales tax to parks will transform our state park system, making it the nation’s best.”

In the 2016-2017 biennium, the money will be used for much-needed state park capital repairs and improvements, addressing a backlog of deteriorating facilities through water and wastewater projects, visitor center upgrades, restroom replacements, electric utility modernization and other improvements.

“In the short-term, a big part of our efforts will focus on addressing capital repairs,” Smith said, “including repairing facilities damaged by floods, hurricanes and wildfires over the past seven years, such as the breached dam at Bastrop State Park and the popular visitor center at McKinney Falls State Park. Into the future, this session put in place a funding stream that’s been vitally needed for effective long-term budgeting and planning to serve our rapidly growing Texas population,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director.

So what does that mean for Government Canyon SNA? Superintendent Chris Holm stated “Specifically for Government Canyon SNA, you will see that we are slated for a restroom/shower facility for our campground.  Although most of this new funding is currently going towards a massive backlog of repairs and facility upgrades across the state, we are ever-hopeful that funding will shift a little towards the operational side to start filling the backlog of staffing needs…not only at our site but statewide as well.”

Read more about the funding for State Parks and see the full list of projects here.

Save the Date – The Big Give 2016!

BG Save the date The Big Give 2016 is just around the corner! Save the date for San Antonio’s day of giving that will take place from midnight to midnight on Tuesday, May 3!

This will be both San Antonio’s and Friends of Government Canyon’s third year participating in the Big Give S.A.  The Big Give S.A. is part of the national day of giving called Give Local America. The purpose of this community-wide giving challenge is to increase public awareness of the impact local nonprofits make in addressing our community’s social challenges, bring nonprofits and donors together, expand the idea of online giving, connect people to the causes that move them the most and, of course, make giving FUN.

Last year, with the help of over thirty donors, Friends of Government Canyon was able to raise over $1,500 dollars in just one day! The funds raised from last year’s Big Give S.A. went towards Government Canyon’s children’s playscape.

Communities across the country are coming together on May 3 to give big. We hope you join us! Join our Facebook event to receive reminders on the big day.

We Did It!

With YOUR help and generosity, we have met the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation $38K Matching Grant Challenge!

Government Canyon State Natural Area will soon have a special place for children and the young at heart to explore nature and learn about the Canyon’s flora, fauna and history. A very special “THANK YOU” to the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation and to ALL who helped us meet this ambitious fund raising goal. Check back here for updates on the construction progress!

 

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Government Canyon State Natural Area Celebrates 10th Anniversary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 8, 2015

Contact: Chris Holm, 210-688-9055, x2008

Government Canyon State Natural Area Celebrates 10th Anniversary

SAN ANTONIO – Join Government Canyon State Natural Area on Saturday, Oct. 17 for a celebration of its 10th anniversary.

“If you have never been to Government Canyon, you will be amazed”, says Government Canyon Superintendent Chris Holm. “Surprisingly, it’s only a few minutes from San Antonio. Many people don’t even know we are here but when they find us, they are amazed by the peaceful solitude.”

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Government Canyon will host events such as: guided hikes on the future route of its planned interpretive nature trail, Ranger-led tours of the Kallison Ranch property, kids’ activities and games, displays about the past, present and future of Government Canyon, and booths from our many partners, including the San Antonio Fire Department, Bexar County Fire Department, Texas Forest Service, Edwards Aquifer Authority, City of San Antonio Natural Areas, Texas Herpetology Society, Texas Audubon Society, Texas Parks and Wildlife Wildlife Division, and many more.

Located in northwest Bexar County, Government Canyon State Natural Area opened its gates to the general public for the first time on Oct. 15, 2005. Having grown since then to its current 12,082 acres, it is one of the largest natural areas located next to a major metropolitan area in the United States and boasts nearly 40 miles of hiking and biking trails. Mountain bikers, runners, walkers, picnickers, birders, nature lovers, and star gazers all enjoy this beautiful wilderness-type oasis. Additionally in 2010, the Natural Area offered camping for the first time, with 25 walk-in, semi-primitive, tent campsites. In 2014, through a partnership with the Witte Museum, nearly 300 dinosaur tracks were discovered, representing the only publically-accessible dinosaur trackways within Bexar County.

The natural area is open weekly only on Fridays through Mondays, however, for the celebration of its 10-year anniversary, it will be open an additional day on Thursday, Oct. 15. Visitors can enjoy half off daily entry fees and discounted Government Canyon store merchandise on Oct. 15- 17.

Government Canyon State Natural is one of 94 state parks, natural areas and historic sites within Texas State Parks, a Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. For more information about State Parks, visit our website at www.tpwd.texas.gov.