Director’s Notes – March 2020: HCA in the era of Coronavirus

Dear Hill Country Neighbors,

It’s hard to start a letter addressing the unprecedented reality we find ourselves in. The Covid-19 outbreak has shown us just how critical our Hill Country community is to the work of the Hill Country Alliance.

There is no replacement for the riparian management workshops, landowner potlucks, Hill Country Living Festival, star parties, Texas Water Symposia and myriad other team meetings, community gatherings, and in-person conversations that HCA is a part of every single day. While we take our role in minimizing the spread of the virus very seriously, we miss our in-person interactions with the people and places of the Hill Country.

HCA staff on a Monday morning Zoom call

The juxtaposition of the most beautiful time of year in the Texas Hill Country, when wildflowers are popping and creeks and rivers are flowing, against the backdrop of a global health crisis and economic downturn is stark. And yet, we remain hopeful. The spirit of our region and its people is strong. While we hunker down and quarantine individually, it’s important to remember we are actually coming together as a community to create a more resilient future for ourselves.

The HCA staff has been adapting to the new reality of working remotely. We’re hosting weekly video staff calls via Zoom, planning to move in person events and workshops to the fall, and doing our best to support our incredible partners around this region. Just a few of the initiatives keeping us busy:

  • Supporting the formation of a brand-new coalition, Texans for Responsible Aggregate Mining, to work alongside a Texas Legislature’s Interim Committee on reforming the way the state oversees quarries, concrete batch plants, and sand and gravel operations.
  • Convening the land trust community in Central Texas to talk about shared projects and objectives via Zoom calls.
  • Advancing the rollout of additional Farm Bill funds through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program to support private landowner stewardship and land conservation.
  • Launching new Friends of the Night Sky groups in several Hill Country counties to raise broader awareness about preserving the night sky and to lay the groundwork for a successful first annual Hill Country Night Sky Month this October.
  • Sharing communications with the Pedernales Landowner Network, a list of more than 900 landowners in the Pedernales basin that meets twice per year.
  • Convening our partners in the Texas Hill Country Conservation Network to continue planning and executing our region-wide conservation strategies, spreading our shared message, and raising new dollars for conservation in Central Texas through the Texas Hill Country Conservation Network and Water Funder Initiative.
  • Launching a census of engineering firms working in the Texas Hill Country to gain a better understanding of how we can advance One Water concepts across the region.
  • Creating a brand-new set of Hill Country View radio segments – to get the word out about important Hill Country issues through 60 second spots on local radio.
  • Collecting and sharing inspiring photos of the Hill Country through our annual photo contest – take a look and submit your photos here!
  • Rescheduling our Hill Country Living FESTIVAL + Rainwater Revival for October 24—when it will be bigger and better than ever!
  • And of course, celebrating 15 years of the Hill Country Alliance!

We pride ourselves on transcending the urban-rural divide of the Hill Country to bring people together. If you have helpful or inspiring stories to share with your neighbors during this time, please send them our way to share in future Neighbor-to-Neighbor newsletters.

As always, we appreciate and depend on your support to keep the important work of HCA moving forward. Wishing you, your family, neighbors and loved ones health, calm, and peace in this uncertain time.

Katherine Romans
Executive Director