Kendall County’s History of Conservation

A four-part series by Brent Evans:

mulesKendall County’s tradition of protecting natural resources has a long history of gradual recognition of needs and spirited citizen action. Brent traces the history of local conservation efforts up to the present, and encourage both public and private conservation strategies.

Judge Garland Perry noted in his history of Kendall County:  “In 1835 the Texas Hill Country was said to have been one of the most beautiful natural areas on earth. It had tall grass, beautiful trees, and fresh, clear running water throughout the area. What the early settlers were unaware of was that immediately beneath that rich, lush, organic topsoil-saturated with moisture – was nothing but hard limestone rock. The first settlers to reach the Hill Country always camped near a spring of good water, or near a stream, where they built their temporary homes. Then they started clearing land, fencing and planting crops.”

“As they plowed more land and began to overgraze grasslands with domestic animals, the rains soon washed the topsoil away. Without the organic matter to hold moisture in the soil, springs soon went dry and it was necessary for the settlers to move near larger streams of water or to dig shallow wells…Between 1860 and 1880, good well water could be reached at 30 to 35 feet. By 1900, windmills were very popular . . . extracting water from 100 to 125 feet . . . Now, a great many of the private water wells are getting water at 500 to 550 feet below the surface. Obviously, this trend can’t go on forever. Water will be a limiting factor in the future growth and development of Kendall County.” .”  – Historic Images of Boerne and Kendall County

In the early planning stages of Boerne, when John James and friends were laying out the plan for the City of Boerne, they included Public Square, which we now call the Plaza – the first park. A communal well was shared by folks who did not have their own.

Loss of natural resources were discussed early on. Ferdinand Olmstead wrote in 1854 “There was still, at a spot near Currie’s Creek, a man who made his livelihood by hunting.  He kept a pack of trained hounds and had killed 60 bears in the course of two years.”

The giant bald cypress trees were valuable to the early explorers because of their water resistant qualities. They were good for shingles, water tanks, beams, and even charcoal. In 1885 Hugo Claus, wrote, “On the opposite of the mountain chain toward the north of Boerne Texas, flows the Guadalupe River, a beautiful river, fish laden shaded with giant cypresses which now unfortunately have mostly disappeared.”

In1890, the Boerne Campers Association advertised:  “Come camp along the banks of the Cibolo, to be provided with tents, food, and all the necessities by local businesses. (It is) a beautiful park-like piece of ground shaded by live oak and other timber fronting the whole distance upon the Cibolo River, one of the most charming mountain streams in the whole State, pure running water over a gravel bed, as clear as a crystal. There are pools 5 to 6 foot deep in which grown people can enjoy a bath and between the pools the water is so shallow that the merest little toddler may be allowed to go in with perfect safety No harm comes from bathing here, our boys often go in five or six times a day and nearly every night and no bad results.”

The connection between commerce and beautiful natural resources has worked for Boerne: “The place has long been and is still used for picnic grounds and admired as spring of good pure wholesome water running out of the bank and the river affords good fishing and bathing facilities.”  – Boerne Merchants Association.

The Herff brothers donated 40 acres to the newly formed Kendall County Fair Association in 1913. The purpose was educational, to encourage and develop farming and ranching skills.

In 1935 Congress recognized that “the wastage of soil and moisture resources on farm, grazing, and forest lands . . .  is a menace to the national welfare” and established the Soil Conservation Service. Hilmar Bergmann began working for the Service in the 50’s. He lived his life on the ranch where he was born. After retiring, Mr. Bergmann volunteered, documenting plant life, and producing brochures describing grasses and woody plants in Kendall County. He hauled around a flat bed trailer full of native plants to teach with. Bergmann said, “In this prairie (at what is now the Cibolo Nature Center) you can find around 60 different grasses…Isn’t that somethin’?”


 

 

Kendall County’s History of Conservation, Part Two – By Brent Evans

creek guyKendall County’s tradition of protecting natural resources has a long history of gradual recognition of needs and spirited citizen action. This the second in a four part series will trace the history of local conservation efforts up to the present, and encourage both public and private conservation strategies.

In 1935, Col. Rozelle purchased the Herff Homestead and started Pioneer Apple Orchard, proving fancy apples could be successfully grown in Kendall County. Arriving in 4’X8’ crates from Stark Brothers in Missouri, the trees were submerged in the Cibolo until planted. During the historic drought of the 50’s, some Herffs from downstream of the Rozelles asked them to reduce pumping water from the Cibolo so their cattle could drink, but in short order the creek went dry, the cattle were sold, and the apple orchard dried up.

In 1949 Boerne celebrated its Centennial  marketing the town as the “Key to the Hills”. The Chamber of Commerce boasted “good hunting, good fishing, beautiful scenery, modern schools, healthful climate, relaxation and rest.

In 1964, the Boerne Chamber of Commerce proclaimed, “Make Boerne your home. High Hills and deep canyons, beautiful trees and scenic drives where you may feast your eyes upon an infinite variety of wild flowers which blanket the hills and valleys in the spring and early summer and the red and gold of the trees in the autumn. Peaceful and picturesque, yet only a few minutes to advantages in San Antonio, Boerne has been designated by the U.S. Health Survey as one of the three healthiest spots in the nation.”

In 1964 the City of Boerne purchased 125 acres of property on the Cibolo Creek to become City Park.

In 1967 Interstate Highway 10 reduced traffic through town, and there were gloomy business predications. So, Berges Fest (“Hill Country Festival”) was invented, and is now a tradition. The Chamber of Commerce announced: “We have a lot of scenery, a lot of hills and streams and a real friendly-like way of life we want to share with our friends. It is the neighborly thing to do.”

The John D. Reed Dam was constructed in the 70’s for flood control and water supply, and  Boerne City Lake was opened in 1978. Mr. Reed had been the district conservationist, for the Soil Conservation Service. He said, “Most ranchers were satisfied with overstocked and poorly managed ranges… conservation of natural resources is now an accepted way of life.”

The Native Plant Society of Texas began in 1980. Thanks to their tireless work, newspaper articles, and educational programs, many residents are now landscaping with native varieties of plants and trees, and Boerne is a greener place. The Boerne Chapter has donated thousands of hours of volunteer planting of natives at Boerne Lake, the #9 Greenway, the Cibolo Nature Center, and all around town with its Big Tooth Maples Program.

Boerne has always treasured shade trees, and for a while, even in the middle of Main street. In 1987 a landscape ordinance proposed to save green space and heritage trees. Guy Chipman Jr. said, “I have seen a lot of the charm of Boerne disappear. This is a chance to control growth and attract new businesses and people. You have an opportunity that you may not have in the future.” A compromise ordinance passed.

In 1988, Carolyn Chipman Evans and a handful of friends dreamed of protecting a segment of the precious Cibolo Creek, and the land around it as a wildlife preserve. Planning began to address the disappearing marshland and the creation of nature trails on 100 acres of the Boerne City Park. The results were a rebirth to the land and a renaissance of public concern for conservation of Boerne’s natural resources. In 1989 the City of Boerne and the Friends of the Cibolo Wilderness restored a marsh area, planted cypress, sycamore, and dogwood trees, and built a boardwalk. Chris Turk, Director of Parks and Planning, helped design and direct construction.

Open to the public since Earth Day 1990, the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm today is a prime example of community caring. Thanks to thousands of volunteers’ dedicated work, the community is preserving its natural heritage for future generations.

Interested in doing some of your conservation work on your private land? Thomas Hall, Estate Planning Attorney, will present the best practices in estate planning to legally protect and preserve the legacy of land at Boerne’s Cibolo Nature Center auditorium on August 26th at 6 pm. Members: $15; non-members: $20. Come discover how you can continue the tradition of conservation of our wonderful local natural resources. Call (210) 249-4616 for registration and details.


Kendall County’s History of Conservation, Part Three by Brent Evans:

 “Early planning for Cibolo Nature Center with Chris Turk, Carolyn Chipman Evans, and Juanita Chipman.’

“Early planning for Cibolo Nature Center with Chris Turk, Carolyn Chipman Evans, and Juanita Chipman.’

Boerne has successfully marketed itself as a beautiful place to visit or live. The Handbook of Texas describes the area: “Throughout its course, Cibolo Creek has been judged to be a ‘scenic’ and ‘picturesque’ stream.  This is particularly true as it passes through Kendall County where a steady flow serves as the basis for Cibolo Nature Center near Boerne. The stream has been dammed to create Boerne City Lake, which provides drinking water for the town’s residents. Further downstream, the creek contributes to the formation of Cascade Caverns”.

In 1990 Kendall County was declared a Critical Groundwater Area by the Texas Water Commission, noting that water availability and quality will be at risk within the next 50 years. The “Rule of Capture” was permitting unregulated groundwater pumping. In 2002 voters supported creation of the Cowcreek Underground Water Conservation District.

In 1992 the Cibolo Nature Center celebrated the Grand Opening of its new Headquarters, a recycled vintage 1898 building that was moved from Main Street. The Outdoor Classroom began and awards followed from the Texas Forest Service, the Boerne Chamber of Commerce, the Mind Science Foundation, the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Association for Environmental Excellence, and many others.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that this reporter’s wife just happens to be the Executive Director of the CNC, Carolyn Chipman Evans, and he thinks she hung the moon.)

In 1993, the CNC worked with the City to create a hiking and biking trail along the railroad right of way, commonly referred to as Old Number Nine.

In 1996 the City of Boerne leased a portion of City Park to the Cibolo Nature Center, protecting the creekside, upland woods, marsh, and native prairie areas. Prairie restoration began with prescribed burns and mowing, which promotes the growth of native grasses.

In 1999 Art Wilson spearheaded the founding of the Cibolo Conservancy Land Trust, and was the first resident of Kendall County to place a family homestead, the Fabra Farm, in a conservation easement.

In 2000, the city acquired a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Texas Recreational Trails Fund to construct trail-heads and trail amenities that provide for recreational, educational, and interpretive opportunities.

In 2002 the Hill Country Master Gardeners began teaching its first classes.

In 2003 the Hill Country Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists began training volunteers.

The Lende Learning Center campus at the Cibolo Nature Center was completed in 2004 through donations of funds and sweat equity. The Center now provides nature-focused education, research, entertainment and outdoor activities for more than 100,000 visitors a year, while promoting sound stewardship of land, water and wildlife. A weathered, century-old building prominent on the Nature Center grounds serves as a visitor center, where kids and families are welcome to come inside to learn about nature through hands-on displays.

In 2004 Kendall County Commissioners met with Trust for Public Land, Cibolo Nature Center, Texas Nature Conservancy, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Land Trust Alliance,  and the Cibolo Conservancy Land Trust to develop a Mater Plan for Parks in the County. A $5,000,000 bond passed, and 600 acres of parks and natural areas were purchased, including James Kiehl River Bend Park, Kreutzberg Canyon Natural Area, and Joshua Springs Park and Preserve. The effort received the 2006 Environmental Excellence Award from the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality.

Also in 2004, Keep Boerne Beautiful was organized to prevent litter, minimize solid waste, beautify and improvement community areas and educate citizens on the environment.

And in 2004, the Hill Country Alliance was formed. Concerned citizens began meeting  to share ideas about strengthening community activism and educating the public about water supply issues, scenic and night sky protection, land conservation and a more responsible approach growth in the Hill Country.

In 2004, The Nature Center Book was published, providing thousands of towns with the development blueprint created at the Cibolo Nature Center. The book has now been translated into Japanese and Chinese.

In 2005 the Cibolo Nature Center held its Grand Opening of the new Lende Learning Center, including auditorium, library, laboratory, business office, research lab, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department office.

Interested in doing some of your conservation work on your private land? Thomas Hall, Estate Planning Attorney, will present the best practices in estate planning to legally protect and preserve the legacy of land at Boerne’s Cibolo Nature Center auditorium on August 26th at 6 pm. Members: $15; non-members: $20. Come discover how you can continue the tradition of conservation of our wonderful local natural resources. Call (210) 249-4616 for registration and details.


Kendall County’s History of Conservation, Part Four by Brent Evans:

P1020589 2“If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.” – Lyndon B. Johnson.

The last decade has seen some serious conservation activity. In 2006 the Kendall County Partnership for Parks was founded, with a mission of promoting the preservation of our natural heritage the development of recreational opportunities.

The first County Park was opened with their help in 2007, the 25 acre James Kiehl River Bend Park on the Guadalupe River. The KCPP provided help with a grant from the Kronkosky Foundation, including infastructure and a professionally generated management plan. The county’s second park was acquired in 2007, the 405-acre Joshua Springs Park and Preserve. KCPP assisted with gathering community input and professional advice to develop a master plan, contributed to the infrastructure, and helped open in 2012. Kreutzberg Canyon Natural Area, 117 beautiful acres located along the Guadalupe River, was purchased in early 2009. The KCPP commissioned a professional Habitat Assessment and Wildlife Management Plan, and the park opened August 15, 2011.

In 2006, the City of Boerne adopted its “Dark Skies” ordinance to preserve the night sky.

In 2007 the 62 acre Herff-Rozelle Farm was purchased by the Cibolo Nature Center, with plans to protect the natural area, restore the historic compound, and develop agricultural and educational programs for the public. An “Inspiration Garden” has been created to demonstrate how to grow food in your own backyard. The homestead pioneer home has been restored. Farmers Market is held on Saturday mornings, the 1 ½ acre garden is now fenced, and restoration projects have been repairing land damaged by pipe lines.

In 2013, the Upper Cibolo Creek Watershed Protection Plan was created by the City of Boerne and dozens of local stakeholders, focusing on 77 square miles of drainage area surround the upper 23 miles of Cibolo Creek. Under the leadership of Ryan Bass, sources of pollution were identified, and management strategies were examined. The future of our water quality depends on this kind of local government and citizen partnership.

In 2014, Cibolo Nature Center had over 300 citizen scientists participate in their research events, and reached over 11,450 people in their monarch outreach events. The CNC also presents classes in Beekeeping, now an accepted practice for Wildlife Valuation plans in Kendall County.

Today, the Greater Boerne Area Chamber of Commerce advertises: “Beautiful landscapes, an ideal climate, a thriving local economy and proximity to San Antonio combine to make Boerne a prime spot.” And, growth is inevitable. Kendall County has been declared the 2nd fastest growing County in Texas, and the 5th fastest growing in the nation.

We cannot depend on local, state, or federal government to do most of the job of conservation, when 97% of Texas is privately owned. There are now 1,600,000 acres of Texas protected by land trusts and private landowners.

This year the Southern Edwards Plateau Habitat Conservation Plan was announced. The SEP-HCP is an incentive program that encourages landowners with endangered species on their property to place that land into a conservation easement in exchange for payment from developers. The US Fish and Wildlife Department provides oversight.

A land trust is a nonprofit conservation organization involved in protecting land for its natural, recreational, scenic, historical, open space or educational value. Land trusts work with landowners across the state to conserve lands by accepting donations of land, outright purchase of land, and by negotiating private, voluntary conservation agreements (termed conservation easements). These land trusts then have the obligation and responsibility for stewarding those lands and easements they hold in perpetuity. Most land trusts are connected to local communities and are very familiar with local issues and needs. Founded in 1998, the Cibolo Conservancy Land Trust now protects over 20 square miles of the Hill Country.

Interested in doing some of your conservation work on your private land? Thomas Hall, Estate Planning Attorney, will present the best practices in estate planning to legally protect and preserve the legacy of land at Boerne’s Cibolo Nature Center auditorium on August 26th at 6 pm. Members: $15; non-members: $20. Come discover how you can continue the tradition of conservation of our wonderful local natural resources. Call (210) 249-4616 for registration and details.

Now read about the future of conservation in Kendall County…