Austin (Feb. 16) - “After last year’s devastating storm water discharge of silt and sediment that choked Hamilton Creek and Hamilton Pool because of unchecked upstream development, I was sure that Hamilton Pool Preserve was the poster child for The Most Endangered Place in Texas,” says Nell Penridge, Hill Country Alliance board member who lives near Hamilton Pool.
Last May, Penridge learned that Hamilton Pool, once clear 30 feet down to the bottom, now had only 3-5 feet of clear water on the surface. The report came from an engineering company hired by Travis County. The engineers concluded it would cost $2.3 million to restore the pool. “This report was shocking to me,” Penridge recalls. “If no action is taken, Hamilton Pool as the ultimate receiving source for the silt and sediment from irresponsible upstream development, will likely become a mud hole.”
Instead of letting Hamilton Pool become a mud hole, Penridge made it her mission to find a way to save Hamilton Pool. With the help of Hill Country Alliance and Hamilton Pool Road Scenic Corridor Coalition, she applied to Preservation Texas for designation.
Hamilton Pool Preserve is a natural Hill Country feature in southwest Travis County, upstream from the confluence of Hamilton Creek and the Pedernales River. The pool occurs where Hamilton Creek spills out over limestone outcroppings, creating a 50-foot waterfall that plunges into the head of a steep box canyon. The waterfall never completely dries up, though it slows to a trickle in dry times. In 1980, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department cited Hamilton Pool as the most significant natural area in rural Travis County. Its cultural history dates as far back as 8,000 years. Annually, Hamilton Pool Preserve is host to some 75,000 visitors.
Preservation Texas included Hamilton Pool Preserve on its 2009 Most Endangered Places List, because of devastation to the pool from major silt and erosion runoff from subdivision development upstream. The 2009 list is the Sixth Annual List of Texas’ Most Endangered Historic Places. The event was created by Preservation Texas to provide statewide awareness through media coverage, and as a tool for recognizing the importance of specific sites while promoting the cause of historic preservation in Texas. (www.preservationtexas.org)
Another important Hill Country feature included on the Most Endangered Places List this year is Scenic Loop-Boerne Stage Corridor. In the 1920’s, the Scenic Loop was 46.3 miles roundtrip from downtown San Antonio. The remaining scenic and historic route is approximately 10 miles. From the south at Highway 16, Scenic Loop Road winds along creeks and springs and continues up the hills to connect with the Boerne Stage Road. At that point, the road turns north and continues as Boerne Stage Road to the Balcones Creek at the Kendall County line.
The history of the area spans several thousands of years. Along the route is evidence of prehistoric archaeological sites, 19th-century rock structures, the Old Spanish Trail, hill country vistas, historic farms and ranch lands including the Maverick Ranch, and natural resources.
“Hamilton Pool and the Scenic Loop are just two of many beautiful treasures in the Hill Country that need to be preserved,” says Christy Muse, Hill Country Alliance executive director. “We hope the Most Endangered Places designation, will help increase awareness about how fragile and important natural areas are to all Texans, and that we can make a difference by nominating more Hill Country areas for the 2010 Most Endangered Texas’ Places List.”
The Hill Country Alliance (HCA) is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to raise public awareness and build community support around the need to preserve the natural resources and heritage of the Central Texas Hill Country. Please see the Hill Country Alliance website (www.hillcountryalliance.org) for the latest news and events, and to learn more about our initiatives and how you can contribute to our activities.