R.I.P. LCRA's Pedernales River Nature Park.

Update: 4/24/2018

Hello all,

I had a horrible experience this past week at my local LCRA Pedernales River Nature Park yesterday. First I discovered they had mowed the wild brush and bushes absolutely to the water's edge on the lake the lawn of which they keep manicured. This time they encroached to water's edge, including a small spit into the lake which was the one spot previously left natural. Cut clean to the soil almost. All the brush, bushes and plants along the lake's edge were species that many butterflies utilized when blooming for feeding, including migrating Monarch. Now all that is gone. It will take years for the foliage to grow back, but under LCRA's Pedernales River Nature Park maintenance plan, the whole riparian zone and flood plain downstream to the park boundary will be 'managed'. That is not good news for wildlife or migrating species that used to depend on the area for foraging in an increasingly developed Hill Country.

That's bad enough, but now the trees lining the lake have even more fishing lures and lines caught up in the branches from the few 'fishermen' that go there to fish. I have numerous photos of lures and hooks swinging in the branches now that I'll put on flickr soon. All of this was bad enough but then - because now you have to pay to go to this 'nature' park, there were few - very few - visitors. But all it took was one to do what I watched or almost witnessed. I barely missed the actual event, but as I was leaving on the paved 15 mile per hour road, I came upon a five or six foot Western Coachwhip that had just been run over and squashed. I stopped, yelled at the person driving away at the top of the hill (too far for me to be heard), cursed and took photos of the carnage (pun not intended). I am sick of the uncaring, indeed, hostility to wildlife and nature ever present in our society.


Update 12/17/2017:

I have put two album of photos on flickr; a before and after the recent work carried out by contractors at LCRA Pedernales River Nature Park. The links to the albums are as follows:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/151313979@N08/albums/72157688059284962

https://www.flickr.com/photos/151313979@N08/albums/72157661677487837

Thursday afternoon, December 30th, 2017. I had a meeting with one of the LCRA persons familiar with the agencies' project to redo the natural habitat at LCRA Pedernales River Nature Park. He actually lives in the same town as I do. We had an amicable discussion, but I was never told the purpose of the land clearing which included many endemic shrubs, bushes, and small trees. I am guessing, based on earlier conversations with various agency personnel, that establishing conditions similar to a prairie was the goal, an all too familiar scheme of local government agencies in possession of chunks of Texas Hill Country land. It also dawns on me that perhaps LCRA has something else in mind for the park as it now seems the altered area has been reduced to mostly Live Oaks and grass, as my photos show. I have many problems with this view of our portion of the Hill Country because it is fraught with issues over description and misunderstanding. For example, the nearby Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park has embarked on its own Prairie Restoration Project at the LBJ NHP Settlement about a mile upstream from the LCRA park, both of which encompass Town Creek, a recharge stream that flows through both parks and downtown Johnson City.

I doubt the LCRA spokesman thinks the brush clearing was as extreme as I do. Perhaps because there is a movement in government agencies to 'restore' prairie habitats across the country. Organizations and websites have sprung up over the years advocating the restoration of native prairie landscapes in areas that turned out to be unsuitable for dry farming agriculture, critical habitat, or for many other reasons. This may be LCRA's vision which is shared (and, I might add, is typical of most 'habitat restoration' projects) by the LCRA employee, for the nature park . I was told LCRA doesn't intend to treat the property as a manicured lawn, which is helpful, but does not answer the question: what is the goal? Now that all the bulldozing is completed, as I was told, the clearing is finished, (but I can't believe it wasn't stopped because of my complaints). From this point forward, LCRA will just let whatever grows in place to grow back naturally. (Aside: what was already growing naturally has been eradicated and now we are just repeating the regeneration step, get it? No? Me neither. If you are just going to let what survives to survive, what was the point?) I worry that in time, the agency will try to make the area a permanent urban like park, complete with routine mowing and continuous cutting back of encroaching 'woody' invasives at the expense of biodiversity. I don't know why it's necessary to destroy the habitat (and all the critters in it) and then leave it alone. Honestly. I'll believe it when I see it.

In the meantime, both LBJ NHP and their Settlement Prairie Restoration Project (ongoing) and this one by LCRA have native plants as their focus. Alien and invasive plants are targeted for removal by either herbicides or mechanical means in an effort to rid the landscape of onerous species. That has to be appreciated as a positive. The native species that are desired for planting range from indigenous grasses, shrub, brush or trees in place of the often invading alien species that more likely got here by way of escaping home gardens and farming practices should be naturally beneficial. Keeping in mind that land here in the Texas Hill Country has been historically cleared of vegetation to enhance grazing and farming. Reclamation or restoring native species is seen as an enlightened correction to past practices that have negatively impacted and transformed the Texas Hill Country in ways that is contrary to an idealized historical view of the land. In both the case of the LBJ National Historical Park effort and this LCRA effort, a view of what the property should look like have been decided in offices by specialists who have studied the flora of the landscapes. Problem is, the Edwards Plateau and eastern Texas Hill Country are being treated as adjuncts of the Great Plains, hence 'prairie' restorations. Again, undesirable plants are slated for elimination with the plan to reinstate the similar native species in place of the intruder. That's the general plans for both places as far as I can tell. But the devil is in the details and from what I see and hear, the details aren't as they should be. Let me let the following link of noted Hill Country expert, Steve Nelle, make my argument for my above criticisms.

http://www.remarkableriparian.org/pdfs/news/GrasslandMyth-July%202012.pdf

Steve Nelle has published many articles that basically helped form my opinions about both the Texas Hill Country in general and our precious and fragile riparian habitats as well. His website offers a wealth of information and suggestions on where, when and how to proceed. I think his suggestions should be applied literally to both our special parks, the LCRA Pedernales River Nature Park, and the LBJ National Historical Park Settlement here in Johnson City, hometown of the 36th President of the United States:

http://www.remarkableriparian.org/pdfs/news/GrasslandMyth-July%202012.pdf


Important Update - see bottom of this message:

This week the riparian area of this unique Hill Country river park will become like your manicured lawn from this day on. From the old road south of the Pedernales an area that stretches from east of the dam on the river to the park's boundary near Deer Creek is being bulldozed of saplings, brush and small trees. From what I can tell, and my observation is a tentative one, the flood plain is being cleared of all vegetation - mesquite trees, cedar elms, pecans, you name it and they have been stripped and smashed into oblivion. This means there is now no natural vegetation to help waterfowl and wildlife hide from humans. I am going to post the progress of this destruction (you can be assured LCRA will take issue with this point of view of their activities). I'll include photos I have of the area before this action was initiated as the one above, and will update the journal post with additional observations as this destructive project proceeds.

Photos now posted showing area and species affected. None of the landscapes depicted here appear as they did in these pictures. To be continued...

I have created a place for the riparian habitat on the land adjoining the river. You can see the species observed before development here and add any you may have in your photo archives. Just follow this link:

https://www.inaturalist.org/places/lcra-pedernales-river-nature-park

I just revised the size of the above place here on iNat. The riparian area along both the Pedernales River and Town Creek have now been nearly cleared of vegetation. There is now no cover for waterbirds and other species to hide from humans and the area of clearing has progressed up slope out of the river flood plain. My latest boundaries take the expanded area into count, but I am now certain I will even have to expand it further because it is obvious the clearing is not complete. I now have complete before and after photos that I will post here and on flickr to enable a wider audience to see what we're loosing.


Updated 11-17-2017
Hi everyone

I have additional information to give you about LCRA's Pedernales River Nature Park development and how this activity is going to affect more of LCRA parks in our Hill Country and Austin metropolitan area. Any of you with interests in such places as Canyon of the Eagles, or McKinney Roughs Nature Park, the Bastrop LCRA parks might want to contact LCRA officials or others who may be able to bring the destructive development proposed for all these parks to a stop. Here's what I learned Wednesday.

According to the contractor working at LCRA Pedernales River Nature Park, the officials in charge of the park have decided against a natural park in favor of a manicured park that I assume they believe will bring more visitors to their parks. What this means for Pederanles Nature Park is that the river front riparian habitat between Town Lake and the park boundary at the Stanton Ranch has been removed entirely. Additionally, the clearing (and poisoning) of all species including native species such as persimmon, cedar elms, small oaks, mesquite and basically any small tree has taken place. Additionally, the clearing has now proceeded up the hill above the old road that runs east and west south of Town Creek, in addition to the area on both sides of Town Creek itself both above and below the low water crossing that takes visitors to the lake. The clearing of brush also included all Agarita growing anywhere between the entrance, the pavilion at the top of the hill and downhill to the river. In other words, the prairie you drove along on your way to the river is gone. In its place are a few oak trees (logs and dead trees removed) and you now have an unrestricted view of the hillside (like a lawn). The pond on Town Creek, home to so many types of birds and waterfowl has been completely cleared of Rattlebush. In the words of the contractor, the person in charge declared that no Rattlebush be allowed to remain. Of course, that applied to the river bank as well. There is no place between Town Creek, where it enters the Pedernales and the eastern boundary where any vegetation has been allowed to remain as cover for wildlife.

The contractor told me - being a country guy - he knew the operation was destroying endangered species and animal habitat and the first iteration of 'the plan' included preserving much of the native brush, but the latest person in charge overruled the whole operation and ordered the extreme clearing to take place. I have both before and after photos I'll place on flickr as soon as possible, but it won't be in time to save the area from devastation. The results are obvious. The crews are about done here at Pedernales Nature Park, unless the officials at LCRA decide to completely clear the remaining 200 acres of land at the park. The impact of this activity makes a mockery of the idea of a 'nature' park as it's obvious nature will only survive now in spite of LCRA, not because of it.

Don't forget that LCRA's plan is to follow the same brush removal at all the aforementioned parks; Canyon of the Eagles, McKinny Roughs, and one or both of the LCRA parks in Bastrop.

to be continued...

**Update as of December 3, 2017

Lähettänyt billarbon billarbon, 15. joulukuuta 2017 06:48

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billarbon

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Huhtikuu 20, 2016 12:50 PM CDT

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Hard to catch

Merkinnät

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Syyskuu 28, 2017 01:04 PM CDT

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Recently cleared away in the flood plain of the Pedernales River on the LCRA Pedernales River Nature Park in Johnson City, Texas

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Syyskuu 7, 2017 12:59 PM CDT

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Lokakuu 11, 2017 01:20 PM CDT

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Two of each species.

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Lokakuu 11, 2017 01:47 PM CDT

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On Curlycup gumweed. A ladybird type beetle hangs nearby.

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Mitä

Amerikansipi Actitis macularius

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Syyskuu 11, 2017 02:56 PM CDT

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Jalavat Suku Ulmus

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Lokakuu 11, 2017 01:32 PM CDT

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R.I.P. LCRA's Pedernales River Nature Park.

This week the riparian area of this unique Hill Country river park will become like your manicured lawn from this day on. From the old road south of the Pedernales an area that stretches from east of the dam on the river to the park's boundary near Deer Creek is being bulldozed of saplings, brush and small trees. From what I can tell, and my observation is a tentative one, the flood plain is being cleared of all vegetation - mesquite trees, cedar elms, pecans, you name it and they have been stripped and smashed into oblivion. Only the very largest trees remain. This means there is now no natural vegetation to help waterfowl and wildlife hide from human visitors. I am going to post the progress of this destruction (you can be assured LCRA will take issue with this point of view of their activities). I'll include photos I have of the area before this action was initiated as the one above, and will update the journal post with additional observations as this destructive project proceeds.

Photos now posted showing area and species affected. None of the landscapes depicted here appear as they did in these pictures. To be continued...

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Jalohaikara Ardea alba

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Marraskuu 8, 2017 01:28 PM CST

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flock flying over denuded bank of the Pedernales River at LCRA Nature Park.

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Jalohaikara Ardea alba

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Marraskuu 15, 2017 02:06 PM CST

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Photos beginning with wide (35mm eqv) view of recently cleared riparian zone on the near shore and brushy slopes parallel to the Perdenales River @LCRA Nature Park. Distance is about 100 yards from camera to birds wading along shore of river. Zooming the lens and watching the egrets and Great Blue Heron taking notice of photographer and finally finding his presence too close for comfort. The birds fly off despite photographer remaining at distance. Clearing off brush and habitat impacted the birds along this section of the river at the park. Progressive photo sequence to follow.

The distance between camera and subject allows atmospheric distortion of the image. As you see, the birds do not tolerate even a single distant person to be present. Waterfowl and other similar birds will be even less tolerant of human visitors as hunting occurs up and down the length of the Pedernales River, perhaps even in the Johnson City City Limits.

The area in the view was similar to the riparian vegetative zone you see across the river on the opposite shore. For more information see my journal post: https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/billarbon

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Ihminen Homo sapiens

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Maaliskuu 7, 2018 12:45 PM CST

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Hook, line, and sinker left hanging perilously in branches of trees along shoreline of Philip Sargent Lake, LCRA Nature Park. Such object pose great risk of injury and death to wildlife.

See Journal Post R.I.P. LCRA Pedernales River Nature Park here:

https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/billarbon/12373-r-i-p-lcra-s-pedernales-river-nature-park

Kommentit

Have you notified your game warden? If they are destroying nesting sites, maybe they can be stopped.

Lähettänyt ellen5 melkein 4 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

I think that would be hard to prove. Most waterfowl are migrants overwintering. Not having observed nesting of endemic species, that would be a hard sell. Usually our game wardens are looking for poachers, fishing/hunting without a license, etc. We do have a relatively new one, but doubt he would care what LCRA did. He/she might actually approve;-) I am waiting to hear back from the agency's park people and see what they have to say. I doubt they'll answer my email, though. If I can mobilize a number of people familiar with the park to write, too, that might get a response, at least. We'll see. I have sent out the news to friends and like minded citizens so I'll see what develops. In the meantime I created a place here on iNat for the section of the park in question. I did that after sambiology suggested keeping track of species before and after the development. Since I was already doing that and others have observations in the river bottom as well, we're off to a good start and with dates of photos recorded when they were taken, it will be easy to see before and after effects. We shall see.

Lähettänyt billarbon melkein 4 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

best of luck

Lähettänyt ellen5 melkein 4 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

Too late for good luck. The thing that really gets me is the destruction of so many native trees and plants. Many aren't large in stature, the leguminous brushes, for example, but there were many saplings of Oaks, Cedar Elm, Hackberry, and other native species which represents to me, at least, a preference for a manicured lawn-like environment. In other words, habitat humans want to see rather than what is. I should have known this already, because one spring a few years back LCRA planted ten foot tall Cypress Trees along the Town Creek portion of their property and each tree was evenly spaced giving an un-natural aspect to the wild riparian zone. None of the large trees survived I think because they were planted the wrong time of year. I contrast this with our volunteer effort here in Johnson City I headed that planted 20 Cypress tree sapling in town. We followed Texas Forest Service guidelines, planted in winter and our trees - those that survived drought and flood - are still growing on the creek augmenting others that sprouted naturally from a few seed trees upstream. Now our Cypress trees can be noticed and are giving our riparian habitat in town a more natural look. Alas, seems like bad luck is the only kind of luck wildlife gets in this country these days. I guess I could add those of us who enjoy and care about 'em. Good that so many do. Thanks for caring. Wildlife needs all the supporters we can muster.

Lähettänyt billarbon melkein 4 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

why are they doing this? If for 'flood control' they need to be made to understand that removing vegetation makes flooding worse. They are not only killing wildlife but putting humans in danger as well.

Lähettänyt charlie melkein 4 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

Not for flood control. I think they have a master plan for the park and has something to do with that. I attended a public meeting LCRA held one time, and heard they were going to build cabins somewhere, it wasn't clear to me where. Now I'm afraid it's right on the used -to- be unspoiled part of the river. I sent the park superintendent an email asking for an explanation, but am not optimistic about his responding. I pointed out to him why the riparian habitat was so important to waterfowl in the area - hunting is allowed on the river and in town and thus there is no refuge for the now shy birds. That makes photographing and encountering wildlife on the river much more iffy a proposition. And, as you say, it will only enhance the power of flooding downstream with less vegetation to slow the waters down." Take paradise and turn it into a parking lot, ou, ou, ou, ou!"

Lähettänyt billarbon melkein 4 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

too bad floodplains aren't protected from development in Texas especially considering how bad the floods have been out that way lately. Doesn't make any sense. In my experience, nothing good comes out of a 'master plan'. Huge red flag.

Lähettänyt charlie melkein 4 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

I'll post after photos of the area in question soon.

Lähettänyt billarbon melkein 4 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

I was researching this park for an upcoming visit to the Austin area and wow, this is devastating to see. Is there any update to this situation?

Lähettänyt oceanicwilderness noin 2 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

I've seen ongoing mowing that reaches the lake water's edge - not good for riparian species. Downstream I haven't checked it out in about a month or so, also the creek area seems to be - or was - allowed to revegetate, but the LCRA personnel were telling me of native species they didn't personally like and had them sprayed with herbicide. The sides of the creek are habitat for - as you know - many riparian dependent species and the banks were bare of suitable places to perch or rest once many of the rattle boxes and other species were removed. You should still come and see if my descriptions are accurate or not, but bring your kayak. Upstream of the lake where the Pedernales enters the lake is the best place to swim and kayak.

Lähettänyt billarbon noin 2 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

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