Board of Directors

Deborah Morin – President of the Board

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Deborah is the co-founder of The Great Springs Project and President of the
Board of Directors. She was a past President of the Board of the Hill Country Foundation and has continued working to preserve local springs and creeks in the Texas Hill Country. Her other charitable commitments involve the Hope Project in India, having co-founded their Kids to Nature Program, serving as Chairman of the Board of Tapovan Trust and is a supporter of the Organic Farming Land Program. Additionally, she is a board member of the Feline Rescue Network and past Board member for the Nutritional Research Foundation, a group that carries out clinical research on diet and its disease-fighting properties of food. Deborah is a longtime teacher of yoga and meditation, and has been practicing for over 35 years. As a student of Sufism for over 30 years, she graduated from Suluk Academy in New Lebanon, New York, in 2007. Deborah received her BBA in Statistics and Marketing from the University of Texas at Austin in 1983. Deborah lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, John Mackey, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Whole Foods Market. Together, Deborah and John maintain a ranch in the Texas Hill Country that models sustainable living through biodynamic agriculture and manages land for bio-diversity and the health of the eco-system and wildlife.

Anne Ashmun – Vice President

General Manager of Ashmun101 Ranch LP for ten years, Anne’s environmental volunteer work has been a lifelong passion. Anne has served on The Nature Conservancy (TNC) boards in Texas, North America and Patagonia and also works with the City of Austin on watershed protection in the Hill Country, and with the Nature Conservancy and Texas Parks and Wildlife on seagrass protection and habitat acquisitions. Anne enjoys most being outside and putting people together to further conservation.  Anne’s family ranch is a model of public-private partnership with a conservation easement with The City of Austin and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Anne and her family helped establish the Davis Mountains Preserve in 1997 in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. Her family’s donation to buy the property and build the McIvor Conservation Center was the largest to TNC for land acquisition until that time.

Dianne Wassenich – Secretary 

The former Executive Director of the San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF), which she helped found 33 years ago, Dianne has dedicated her career to the protection of the San Marcos River by preserving recharge zone lands above the San Marcos Springs. Major progress includes a 210-acre ranch preserved with a conservation easement, a 250-acre ranch purchased and then sold to the city of San Marcos for water quality protection of major recharge features, and a 75-acre ranch purchased and now being surveyed for a conservation easement. Dianne’s legacy includes SMRF being accredited as a land trust in 2019. In addition to her work with SMRF, Dianne has served on many regional, statewide, and local stakeholder groups. Currently she represents the public in a seat on Region L Water Planning Group, is Vice-chair of the Bay Basin Stakeholder for the Guadalupe basin, and is also on the Steering Committees of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan, Upper San Marcos Watershed Initiative, and Plum Creek Watershed Program. Dianne served many years on the Texas Parks & Wildlife Rivers Advisory Board, and has participated in San Marcos’ master plan and numerous other river-related committees locally. Dianne is the 2019 Terry Hershey Award Recipient by Audubon Texas.

Kyndel Bennett – Member

A 30-year veteran of the real estate industry who has worked in development, construction, and as a principal in a billion-dollar real estate investment fund, Kyndel is CEO of Cayetano Development, a developer of affordable residential communities throughout the State of Texas.  He has extensive experience in structuring, syndicating, developing, and managing complex real estate projects. He received an MBA with a real estate concentration from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina and a BA from the University of Texas at Austin. He is actively involved in the Austin Community having served on the Boards of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas (Past Chair), the Colorado River Alliance (Past Chair) and as a Trustee of Trinity Episcopal School (Past Chair). He is also a member of the Texas Business Leadership Council and an Executive Member of the University of Texas Real Estate Finance and Investment Center. Kyndel, recipient of the 2019 AFP-Austin Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year Award, is married to Laura and has two children, Barkley and Johnny.

Senior Staff

Garry Merritt – Chief Executive Officer

Having represented clients in over $800 million in corporate, financial, and real estate transactions, Garry brings the Great Springs Project (GSP) a unique combination of business development savvy, real estate law expertise, government service, and longstanding commitment to conservation of Texas’ natural resources. A former rural County Judge, County Attorney and corporate counsel, Garry’s legal expertise includes business and real estate transactions, water rights, business development, private securities offerings, acquisition of venture capital, and contract negotiations. Board Certified in Farm and Ranch Real Estate Law, Garry is Life Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation and a member of the State Bar College.  Holding a Bachelor’s Degree from Rice University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Texas School of Law, Garry returned to the Texas Hill Country to practice law in his rural hometown of Leakey after working as a corporate attorney with Campbell & Riggs in Houston and Team Counsel for the Houston Rockets.  Prior to joining GSP, Garry served as General Counsel and Legislative Director of the Texas Association of Counties which represents all 254 counties in Texas with over 2,500 elected officials.  Garry has also previously served as Board Chairman of the Hill Country Alliance, the Middle Rio Grande Development Council, and the Southwest Area Regional Transit District.  An avid river guide, Garry cares deeply about our beautiful hill country and preserving it for generations to come.

Lyda Creus Molanphy – Chief Strategy and Operations Officer

Lyda brings over 30 years of strategic public affairs experience, environmental nonprofit operations expertise, a deep network of contacts in the public, private and nonprofit sectors, and a Texas-sized passion for the mission of Great Springs Project. Prior to joining GSP, Lyda was principal and founder of an Austin-based consulting firm that conducted successful executive-level personnel searches and organizational development services for The Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation, The Meadows Center for Water & The Environment, The Hill Country Alliance, The Texas Hill Country Conservation Network, The Texas Water Foundation, Barton Springs Conservancy and others. Previously, Lyda served as an executive at the Texas Dental Association (TDA) and as vice-president of one of a public affairs firm where she managed daily operations and directed legislative, regulatory, and communications issues for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies, law firms, banks, political campaigns and professional associations. A veteran of Texas politics, Lyda advised a number of executives and assisted political and corporate clients with successful international, national and local public relations campaigns. A graduate of Duke University, Lyda is a certified mediator and a life-long runner on natural trails who dreams of one day running from her hometown of San Antonio to her current home in Austin, Texas.

Emma Lindrose-Siegel – Chief Development Officer

An experienced fundraiser with a demonstrated history of working in non-profit development and managing successful capital campaigns, Emma has raised over $34 million for Texas organizations and brings a proven track record of success and first-hand conservation experience with one of Texas’ four great springs, Barton Springs. A Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), Emma’s expertise crosses all aspects of development, strategic planning, assessment, major gifts, staffing/professional searches and feasibility studies. Prior to joining Great Springs Project, Emma served as the Executive Director of the Barton Springs Conservancy, where she led the organization in an early completion of the capital campaign to rehabilitate the historic Barton Springs Pool Bathhouse.  Emma’s experience working with the city council, county officeholders, parks department staff, and engaged community leaders informs her dedicated civic approach to attract sustaining support for the Great Springs Project. Previously, Emma served as Senior Director of Major Gifts for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, Interim Executive Director and Development Director for the Colorado River Alliance and Director of Grants & Foundation Relations for the LIFT Alliance (Austin Children’s Shelter & SafePlace). Emma holds a Bachelors of Arts in English Composition & Environmental Ethics with honors from University of North Texas.  Emma has a personal passion for the springs as a loyal swimmer at Barton Springs Pool.

Helen Ballew – Project Director

A lifelong conservationist and pivotal leader who has spent the past 35 years working to protect the Texas Hill Country, Helen was founding Treasurer of the Great Springs Project. Having been active in a number of successful environmental and conservation efforts, Helen brings an in-depth historical perspective and a well-respected scientific and collaborative approach to our mission. Helen’s impactful work includes helping to create the Austin Regional Habitat Conservation Plan which resulted in the National Wildlife Refuge and the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. She also served for many years as a director on the Boards of the Bamberger Ranch Preserve and the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance. Most recently, Helen serves as founding Vice President of the new Comal County Conservation Alliance which is dedicated to preserving land, water, and wildlife in Comal County, home of one of Texas’ four great springs. Previously, Helen was Director of Landowner Contact at The Nature Conservancy as well as the Executive Director of the Hill Country Foundation and Headwaters at Incarnate Word (San Antonio Springs). Helen earned her A.B.  Degree in English from Middlebury College, and an M.E.S. in Environmental Studies and Field Ecology from the Yale Forestry School. Utilizing her expertise in program development, policy analysis, community consensus building and conservation planning, Helen lives her passion to help deepen the connection between people and nature.

Bill Barker, FAICP – Regional Transportation Planning Director

A former Planning Director for VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, Interim Planning Director at the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, and Director of Transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments (Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Planning Organization ), Bill brings a unique background in regional planning and transportation funding to the Great Springs Project.  As the only professional in San Antonio that is recognized as a Fellow by both the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the American Institute of Certified Planners, Bill offers dynamic expertise in coordinating and aligning municipal, county and federal planning initiatives.  Additionally, Bill was Chairman of the Board of the Bexar Land Trust (now known as the Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas) where he signed a number of critical land conservation easements.  A former Adjunct Associate Professor in the graduate urban and regional planning program at the University of Texas at San Antonio and a former Advisory Board Member to the Hill Country Alliance, Bill’s career in transportation started at the U.S. Department of Transportation. As a consultant, Bill has helped public and private clients in seven states, Canada and Mexico as well as the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Agency for International Development. In addition to numerous transportation and conservation board positions, Bill has been engaged in “think tank” projects with the Houston Advances Research Center, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Center for Urban Transportation Research, the Transportation Research Board, and the Gas Research Institute. He has a B.S. in physics from the University of Florida and a M.A. in urban affairs from the University of Texas at Arlington.  Bill hopes to walk the trails between San Antonio and Austin with his youngest granddaughter while exploring the Great Springs and the unique natural environment of the Texas Hill Country.