This Thanksgiving season, Hill Country Conservancy gives thanks for your generous commitment to our community.
Whether through volunteer time, contributions, or both, your investments helped to both open and maintain sections of the Violet Crown Trail, expanding our access to nature for our entire community. You contributed to safeguarding our precious drinking water for the next generation, and helped to ensure that the beauty of Austin and the surrounding Hill Country will remain—forever.
Here’s how Hill Country Conservancy maximized your gifts:
The Violet Crown Trail
In 2019 your gifts provided greater access to the outdoors via the Violet Crown Trail, which leads to a happier and healthier community. The Violet Crown Trail is one of Austin’s crown jewels, giving people a place to run, stroll, play, exercise their pets, or just be in nature. Studies continue to show that spending time in nature decreases stress, increases health, and provides a higher quality of life.
In 2019 Hill Country Conservancy optimized your gifts to complete another half mile of ADA-compliant trail from Slaughter Lane to Slaughter Creek. The trail is designed with longevity in mind: the surface is composed of a product called StaLok which provides a natural look while safeguarding against erosion and the low-water crossing spanning Slaughter Creek is equipped with an innovative breakaway railing system to accommodate floodwaters and debris.
This Slaughter Creek section completes 13 miles of trail stretching from Zilker Park to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy.
The planning and permitting for phase two of the Violet Crown Trail is also well underway. This phase will extend the trail south from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center into wildlands of Hays County and transition from an urban recreation area into a vast expanse of nature, providing a scenic backdrop for your outdoor adventures.
Since we live in a rapidly growing region plagued with both droughts and floods, land conservation and proper land stewardship are two essential long term solutions to conserving our drinking water for future generations, protecting our native wildlife habitat, and mitigating floods and drought, while also preserving the beauty of our region.
Inspiring Oaks Ranch – Ranch owners Jenny Carloye and Corky Kuhlman’s choice to enter into a conservation easement agreement with Hill Country Conservancy protects a stunning 1,014 acre property in the renowned Devil’s Backbone Scenic Loop. However, the easement does more than just enhance our endless Hill Country views—it also helps to safeguard clean drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Central Texans. The ranch hosts 3,000 feet of waterways that flow into the Blanco River and provide recharge for the Greater Edwards Aquifer—a critical drinking water supply for the City of San Antonio and an important contributor to the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer (BSEA). The BSEA provides water to approximately 60,000 people, many area ranches, and local wildlife populations. It is also the source of Austin’s beloved Barton Springs Pool. These abundant water sources combine with woodland and savannah grasslands to provide generous amounts of food, water, and protective habitat for a variety of wildlife, including several imperiled species.
Cherry Springs Ranch – Straddling the Burnet and Blanco County lines, Cherry Springs Ranch is 1,038 acres of beautiful and varied landscapes from dramatic cliffs to lushly vegetated grottos and sparkling creeks. The land is situated over three critical watersheds boasting an impressive 37,640 linear feet of waterways. Because of the abundance of water sources and the location of the land, Bill and Ann Edwards’ choice to enter into a conservation easement with Hill Country Conservancy will forever benefit current and future generations of Texans. Permanent protection of this land ensures its waterways will remain pristine as they continuously flow into Lake Travis and the Colorado River, the primary water sources for millions living in downstream communities like Austin, Bastrop, Smithville and others eastward to the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, the Cherry Springs Ranch Conservation Easement includes outdoor lighting provisions aimed to preserve the dark skies in which the Hill Country stars shine bright.
Hill Country Headwaters Conservation Initiative (HCHCI)
The HCHCI is a collaborative program created by Hill Country Conservancy, The Texas Hill Country Conservation Network, and 19 partner organizations to ensure long-term conservation of sensitive agricultural lands through partnership with area landowners. The initiative is financed through a $5.15 million award from the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as part of their Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). In 2019 HCC prescreened applicants with land in the critical watershed areas who proposed projects that aimed to enhance or protect soil, water and wildlife habitat, long term. Through this process we helped 9 landowners secure funding for projects enhancing a total of 11,000 acres of land in critical watershed areas to the benefit of all Hill Country residents including those in Austin and San Antonio.
EPIC Emerging Professionals in Conservation (EPIC)
EPIC is an outdoors club dedicated to exploring and preserving the natural beauty of the Texas Hill Country. Celebrating its 11th year, the approximately 100 members connect with each other and the environment through adventures, educational events, volunteerism, and philanthropy. Membership dues go to support Hill Country Conservancy’s projects in and around Austin and the Hill Country, including the Violet Crown Trail. This past year members enjoyed two overnight camp-outs, an indoor and outdoor rock climbing event, a group paddle on the Colorado river, a ranch tour at Cherry Springs Ranch, and more.
Events and Activities
Volunteer Work Days – While the Violet Crown Trail will be yours to enjoy forever, it takes all of us to keep the trail safe after heavy rains, free of invasive species, and to ensure a well-maintained trail surface. Therefore, we send eternal gratitude and virtual hugs to the over 100 volunteers who attended the five volunteer days we have hosted so far this year. A celebrated mix of adults, children, boy scout troops, master naturalists and more planted trees, spread wildflower and native grass seeds, resurfaced portions of the trail, and removed invasive species. Younger volunteers adorned the trail with rock cairns as they learned about trail safety.
Monthly Trail Cleanup hosted by EPIC – This year almost 100 people joined members of Emerging Professionals In Conservation (EPIC) to help pick up trash along the Violet Crown Trail. This volunteer opportunity rotates locations, is open to anyone, and is a great way to get involved on the VCT!
Monthly Birding and Nature Hikes – Over 60 nature lovers and bird watchers joined us for HCC’s monthly birding and Nature Hikes this past year. Guided by experienced birder and EPIC member Mikael Behrens, the hikes are an excellent educational opportunity to learn about the birds and other wildlife inhabiting Nalle Bunny Run Wildlife Preserve, HCC’s habitat restoration project on the banks of the Colorado River.
Walk-and-Talks -Hill Country Conservancy hosts regular Walk-and-Talks which, invite members of the community to join us for guided hikes along the Violet Crown Trail. So far this year, more than 100 people have attended for the opportunity to chat about all things HCC – conservation, the Violet Crown Trail, life in the Hill Country and more!
Landowner Workshops – In 2019 Hill Country Conservancy, in conjunction with our partners, hosted two educational workshops for landowners in Blanco and in Castell, covering land stewardship best practices and the basics of conservation easements. Over 50 landowners attended the two workshops, seeking ways to improve their land using efficient, cost effective, and environmentally sound methods.
The Ribbon Run – On National Trails Day 2019, 139 trail-lovers joined Hill Country Conservancy and our partners at REI to break the ribbon and inaugurate the new section of the Violet Crown Trail at Slaughter Lane then embarked upon a 5k fun run and a 1k Walk-and-Talk. At the finish, participants gathered for music, tacos, coffee and fun at nearby Sendera Neighborhood Park. It was a magnificent display of community—stretching, running, walking, and enjoying a trail built from your gifts.
Nature Day at Nalle Bunny Run Wildlife Preserve – Each summer, EPIC hosts a day in nature on one of Hill Country Conservancy’s beautiful conserved properties. Situated on the banks of the Colorado River, the 35-acre preserve is not only an environmental treasure, but an important habitat restoration project. More than 35 people joined EPIC for this “choose-your-own-adventure”-style event featured a nature hike, canoeing, swimming in Lake Austin, yard games, and more.
Family Nature Scavenger Hunt – This November, Hill Country Conservancy will host our first nature-themed scavenger hunt along the Violet Crown Trail. We’ll provide an educational guide for parents and their little adventurers on the quest to make rubbings of foliage, identify critter habitats, and recognize different shapes and sounds along the trail. This event will be the first of many programs intended to educate our community’s youth about the Violet Crown Trail and the wonders of nature.
Your contributions to Hill Country Conservancy have given everyone in Austin and the surrounding Hill Country many beautiful gifts. You provided increased access to nature which in turn will enhance the health and well-being of everyone in the community. You protected over 2,000 acres of land over critical watersheds, which will help to ensure clean drinking water for the next generation of Texans. You conserved dwindling habitat for our iconic Texas wildlife, and provided educational opportunities for local kids, trail users, and landowners to carry forward a conservation ethic, and you protected the beauty of the Hill Country—forever.
This Thanksgiving, Hill Country Conservancy gives thanks for you.