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It was a forest of cactus!

“It was a cactus forest!”

In a previous post, I mentioned that my Nature & the Quest for Meaning class took a tour along Prospect Park Trail, a trail maintained by the Greenbelt Alliance, and learned all about pitching a hammock in order to better enjoy the natural areas of San Marcos. That wasn’t all that we learned, though.

After carpooling through a neighborhood area, we all pulled up to a tiny path sticking out at the end of a road with a man standing on it. The man was Todd Derkacz, a member of the Greenbelt Alliance and our tour guide for the day. He greeted all of us as we piled out of our cars and began to lead us down the path. As we first started walking, I was absolutely amazed at all of the cactus that were around. It was a cactus forest! That’s one thing about Texas that I’m actually not very fond of…I’d rather live in an area where I don’t have to see the dry, spiky plants.

The Greenbelt Alliance takes care of a lot of land!

The Greenbelt Alliance takes care of a lot of land!

After walking for a little while, we came into a small thicket with a large, gaping hole in the ground nearby. There was a bench off the side of the path where Todd dropped his backpack and told us all to stop. In the shade, Todd began explaining exactly what the Greenbelt Alliance was and what their mission was. The Greenbelt Alliance took care of Prospect Park and several more miles of land in San Marcos, Texas. Their mission is to provide the public with free, natural areas to enjoy. While we were listening to Todd, several people jogged by, one couple had even brought their dog along for the run. Other people rode by on bikes. These people only proved that the Greenbelt Alliance was succeeding in providing the San Marcos area with a natural place to relax and exercise.

Todd pulled out a bandana that had a map printed on it. The map showed a plethora of trails that spanned throughout the land that the Greenbelt Alliance took care of. Not only does the Greenbelt Alliance want to keep areas free of urban encroachment, but it also wants to ensure that the areas stay in their natural state. There were several stumps around us from invasive species that had been removed. Todd also warned us about leaving dog remnants behind because dogs are not “native” to this area and their waste would affect the area in a negative way. Aside from erecting signs and paving paths, the Greenbelt Alliance did not want to change the area.

Aquifer Recharge Zone

Aquifer Recharge Zone

After explaining about all the Greenbelt Alliance does and the land they cover, Todd drew our attention to the massive hole that was resting behind us. Deep in the ground, a hole resided within the rocks looking quite menacing and a little scary. The hole was pretty massive and definitely demanded attention. “This is an aquifer recharge zone,” he explained. “Whenever it rains, all of the water is drained into that hole where it is drawn straight down to the aquifer. From there it is filtered and bubbles up through the springs and into the river. Because of that, this area is very fragile and important.” Suddenly, I thought about just how important that hole was and how this area’s health would be telling on the health of other areas in this region. How did the water clean itself of the dirt, leaves, and sticks that were found in this area? Those materials would be carried into the hole by rainwater, right? What if trash fell into the hole? What if an animal peed into the hole? What if the hole was clogged or covered? What would happen?

Young German Shepherd Dog

Young German Shepherd Dog

One of my classmates raised her hand and asked a question, “So what if your dog, you know…acts like a dog…? Should we take care of that, or is that counted as natural?”

Todd did not look pleased, “Oh, no, that’s natural at all! If you think about it, dogs are not native to this region…they aren’t found in the wild. If they act like dogs here and it gets washed into the recharge zone, it goes into the water we drink. People should really pick up after their dogs.”

I instantly thought of the beautiful, young German shepherd that had crossed our path earlier with her owners. I hope her owners picked up after her if she needed a pit stop. She was a spectacular, healthy looking dog, but I would hate for her matter to make anyone else sick or upset this fragile area.

Beautiful Nature

Beautiful Nature

As Todd continued to talk about the surrounding area, I dozed off a bit as I began to take several pictures of the beauty. I zoomed in with my camera and took macro shots of several different textures as I also tried different perspectives looking above me, below me, beside me, just all over. I love taking photographs outside because there is plenty of bright, natural light for my camera to capture and the colors always come out so vivid and bright. Not to mention, I just love natural objects, so I find them meaningful and interesting. I enjoyed taking several photos.

After spending about an hour out on the trail in Prospect Park, many of us started to inch away. Several of us had classes to get to and although we enjoyed spending time out in the wilderness, we had urban life to return to. We thanked Todd for his service and continued back the way we came, leaving the menacing hole behind and passing through the cactus forest once again. We rushed off to class, and I made it back just a minute or two
before my next class started. Just in time!

Watch Todd speak about the Greenbelt Alliance in this video:

More on the Greenbelt Alliance: Need a Break? Pitch a Hammock!

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