City of San Antonio Transfers Almost 3,000 Acres to Government Canyon

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Government Canyon State Natural Area is adding almost 2,962 acres of environmentally critical habitat for conservation purposes and future recreational use. The additional land boosts the state natural area’s total size to 11,576 acres.

The land deal was okayed Thursday by the San Antonio City Council, which approved the transfer of eight tracts of undeveloped city-owned property to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The land had been purchased by the city with Proposition 3 tax revenues to protect water quality in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone and for possible use as future parkland.

"The expansion of Government Canyon State Natural Area is a true testimony to the effective partnership between our agency and the City of San Antonio that has always focused on conserving the land’s unique natural resources, regardless of ownership," said Carter Smith, TPWD’s executive director. "We will be investigating a range of biologically appropriate and compatible public use opportunities, including and up to public hunts."

Future use and development of the additional acreage will be consistent with Government Canyon’s existing restrictive development and appropriate public use policies in effect since the state natural area opened to day use in late 2005, according to superintendent Deirdre Hisler. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will work with the city to develop a public use plan that takes into account the protection of all natural resources, she said, including the endangered golden-cheeked warbler that nests in the area.

"The added acreage was purchased by the city under a parks venue and for water quality purposes, so there will be minimal facilities on the tracts," Hisler said. "Some tracts will complement Government Canyon State Natural Area’s existing trail system, while others might accommodate a different form of compatible public access."

Almost 90 percent of the Government Canyon watershed rests atop the recharge zone for the Edwards Aquifer, a primary source of drinking water for millions of San Antonio area residents. The eight new tracts fall into this ecologically sensitive watershed as well, and represent the majority of undeveloped lands adjacent to Government Canyon in a rapidly growing area, where in some spots subdivisions abut the state natural area.

In addition to educating the public about the ecological fragility of the karst environment of porous limestone that funnels rainwater underground into the aquifer, Government Canyon SNA affords outdoor enthusiasts access to thousands of classic Hill Country wilderness via some 40 miles of hiking trails. Visitors also have access to 15 recently built picnic sites and an open-air pavilion for day use only. Future plans include providing limited camping opportunities.

Government Canyon State Natural Area is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Monday. Call (210) 688-9055 for a list of upcoming special events and other information, or see the park Web page.

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