100-mile nature trail would create a green corridor linking San Antonio to Austin

Written by: Alison Medley
Read the article on the Houston Chronicle

An ambitious project to create a 100-mile hiking trail from San Antonio to Austin has hit another milestone in its development.

The Great Springs Project is a little closer to becoming reality after The National Park Service selected the initiative for community planning and technical assistance.

Once the expansive, green corridor is completed, The Great Springs Project will ultimately connect four of Texas’s Great Springs–Barton Springs, San Marcos Springs, Comal Springs and San Antonio Springs. Hikers and cyclists may have to wait a bit for the completion of the green corridor, which is slated to wrap up in 2036.

The plan is to add 50,000 acres of protected lands, creating a green corridor over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.

“We’re on a short timeline because our region is one of the fastest growing in the Country. The time to act and conserve this land is now,” Great Springs Chief Development Officer Emma Lindrose-Siegel told Southern Living’s Perri Ormont Blumberg.

The design of the Great Springs Project will be headed by Alta Planning+Design and is slated for completion in summer or fall 2021.  The project’s board members include architect Ted Flato and Whole Foods founder John Mackey.

The visionary project could dramatically change how Texans travel to the state capitol, allowing more access to nature, National Parks Service’s Justin Tuck said.

“The majority of that corridor is travel via car,” Tuck told News 4’s Jim Lefko. “Just think and imagine if it can be traveled and engaged with alternative transportation—biking, walking that allows people to have access to the great outdoors.”

Embarking on this 100-mile trail endeavor was a project of a lifetime for Great Springs CEO Garry Merritt.

“It’s a legacy project. With all these people working together, we’re putting a project together that will be for Texas for hundreds of years. It’s for the future of Texas, “ Merritt told Chron.

The project’s all-encompassing mission is to be an enduring gift to Texas, Merritt said.

“The communities are built are built around the springs.  So helping to a part of the mission to continue to protect those springs for the iconic public spaces that they are is really important to us,” Merritt said. “We want to protect and connect those springs. The overall mission is to provide huge civic gift to the state of Texas.”

Even though the project’s completion is set for 2036, the good news is that there’s already a network of trails flourishing in these cities, so the job is to link them together, Merritt said.

“There’s an incredibly robust set of trails already growing there—in the four cities. You’ve got a huge complex in San Antonio and growing. San Marcos has a lot of trails and more on the way,” Merritt added. “And especially the Violet Crown trail in Austin. You go to any of those cities, and you’ll find good trails. Our job is to support those local trails and help them come together.”

The Great Springs Project also enlisted the help of transportation planner Bill Barker for the trail master plan.

“People love the Hill Country, and here’s an opportunity to make it more accessible to a lot of people while at the same time trying to preserve what makes it the Hill Country in the first place,” Barker told the Rivard Report.

Imagine the ease of simply walking from one iconic Texas town to another on this trail—and just taking in the natural beauty from spring-to-spring, Merritt said.

“You can be in New Braunfels, stay in a bed and breakfast, have dinner there and get up the next morning and walk to San Marcos, and end up in downtown San Marcos and stay in a bed and breakfast and have dinner there,” Merritt said.