An article similar to the one below was published in the Luling Signal and Newsboy Newspaper on June 15, 2017
Imagine an early morning walk along the San Marcos as dawn paints the horizon, quiet and dew-heavy, watching the first rays reflect off the river. Can you hear the morning sounds: a symphony of birdsong, the ratchet-like chirping of scampering squirrels, the crunch of your footsteps on the trail? Soak in the beauty around you: towering old growth sycamore and cottonwood trees and new spring foliage, all punctuated by random splashes of wild flowers.
The 40 acres of Zedler Park South are getting a makeover. Working with the city of Luling, the Lost Pines Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists has designed and installed a simple nature trail along the river and beyond. The path winds along the wooded banks of the river, then offers a return loop back to the picnic area. They also designed a one mile running/walking path along the entire perimeter of the park. Descriptive signage has been added to educate hikers about native trees and to show the layout of the trail system. The naturalists also outlined a wild space adjacent to the nature trail—that should be left un-mowed—to allow habitat for wildlife.
The project, sponsored by the Lost Pines Chapter, is the brainchild of one Allen Guisinger, naturalist and Caldwell County resident. “I just saw the potential for families to enjoy getting outdoors and appreciate the native beauty of what’s already there,” said Guisinger, “so we talked about it and decided to make a commitment.” Guisinger was instrumental in development of the original Zedler Mill restoration project. He added, “A nature trail along the river was part of the original master plan approved by the city several years ago. We appreciate the support of the city manager in getting this accomplished.”
Of course Zedler Park South has already been developed to a certain extent to allow river access for boating and swimming. Zedler Mill provides canoe rentals for use on a designated six mile Texas Paddling Trail, culminating at the park. Currently, a center portion of the open field is used for children’s soccer and other athletic or civic programs. Picnic pavilions are popular on weekends. A disc golf course has been added as well and there’s more on the drawing board.
The City of Luling envisions adding more improvements to the park. City Manager Mark Mayo will oversee additional improvements to the area in due course. These include the planned addition of public restrooms, vehicle parking and volleyball courts. A few strategically placed picnic tables under the pecan grove or observation benches along the river trail are other possibilities. The intention is to create an enjoyable recreational opportunity for area residents and visitors to Luling.
This trail system was no casual affair. The naturalists proposed the system to the city council in January 2017, after completing a bio-census survey of the tract. Guess what they found? An unusually rich assortment of wildlife, trees and native plants along the fertile banks of the river. After mapping and marking the new trail, the naturalists moved in with chainsaws and hand tools to further define the route. Mowing support was provided by the city. Although the Texas Master Naturalists have committed to long-term monitoring of the site, the Luling Parks Department will keep the trail system mowed and maintained.
The trail includes about 1/3 mile along the river and a 1 mile running/walking loop. Signs describing the trails and labeling 23 native trees were funded by the Luling Economic Development Corporation and installed by the Master Naturalists.
“The mission of Texas Master Naturalists is to be a resource to the local communities we serve to help manage our local natural resources,” said Guisinger. “This project has been a true partnership between us and the city of Luling.” The Texas Master Naturalist program is sponsored by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Lost Pines Chapter serves Bastrop and Caldwell Counties.