We need more nature in our lives, more space for recreation and more space for wildlife to roam. Voters in Hays County, Texas, (southwest of Austin) agreed, when nearly 70 percent of them voted to adopt Proposition A. Known as the “Hays 2020 Parks Bond,” it earmarks $75 million to create and expand parks to meet recreational demands and protect natural areas threatened by development. This is especially important because Hays County is one of the fastest growing areas in the U.S., and these new investments will help preserve cherished wild places from encroaching development.
The passage of this measure comes amidst the ongoing pandemic, which has seen record numbers of people turning towards wild and natural spaces to find a sense of calm, as well as opportunities to enjoy the outdoors while maintaining social distance.
Prop A includes bond funding for 16 projects, ranging from urban parks used for recreation, to natural habitats that are critical for wildlife conservation. The projects that Hays County has just voted to fund include:
Preservation of Coleman’s Canyon, home to Wimberley Bat Cave and a source to Jacob’s Well
Protection for land near the San Marcos River
Money for a new nature center at Blue Hole Park
Safeguards for the Golden-cheeked Warbler’s habitat
An addition of 14 miles to the Violet Crown Trail
The projects were recommended by the Parks and Open Spaces Committee and were selected due to their unique attributes.
To support this effort, Hays County created a website with a “story map” that provides information on each specific project and the ways it can benefit citizens. It shows how the project aids water quality protection and protects endangered species. Plus, it outlines ways the public can utilize each space.
There’s a movement afoot to set aside half the earth for nature to thrive. A first step is to protect 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030. It’s a bold vision, and winning it will require lots of smaller victories at local, county, state and national levels.
So, while the voters of Hays County weren’t voting on a 30 percent by 2030 goal per se, they were voting to protect more nature, and with more victories like this, we’ll get there. Kudos to Hays County.
Photo credits: Jcutrer//Wikimedia and Steve Maslowski/U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Executive Director, Environment Texas
As the executive director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation, renewable energy and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughters are working to visit every state park in Texas.