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Crescent Bend Nature Park

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SCHERTZ UNDER-PERFORMANCE IN CRESCENT BEND NATURE PARK

Horses Schertz delayed many months before posting signs forbidding horses from the walking trails. During that delay, the integrity of the walking paths suffered greatly. All the while it was known that one of the Park Board members was receiving financial incentives from the horse stable business where she was employed.
Bicycle Entrance A bicycle entrance from Schaefer Road to Omar Road was approved at meetings with the Friends of CBNP. Plans were made for both interests to work together on creating a proper entrance. Then, a unilateral decision to delay the work came from Park management. Since then, no effort has been made to return to the agreed upon project.
Volunteer Hours Schertz is able to get credit from Bexar County for the equivalent dollars it puts into the Park each year. Schertz, from the very outset, used the hours of volunteers for a significant amount of this credit. This reduced the cost to the City, even though the volunteers were working for CBNP and not for the City of Schertz.
Extreme Abuse From times past, the park has several large patches of bamboo and cane. Both of these are non-native and highly invasive. Once established, as they are in CBNP, it takes great effort to effectively remove them. Several volunteers put many months of laborious work into destroying the surface exposure of the major bamboo clusters. The root system remained, and the most effective means of eradicating bamboo after it is taken down is to religiously mow the shoots as they emerge. The backbreaking work was largely performed by one volunteer, but many others provided hours upon hours of assistance. At the end, all Schertz needed to do was regularly mow those locations. Even this, Schertz couldn't do for the park. And the insult that this city made upon volunteers was extreme, and is hard to forget. Thousands of hours wasted with the expectation, and committment, that this city would perform a simple task to assure this project's success.
Bollards, Cables and Security Gates After months of Park destruction by trucks mudding and off-roading in the Park it was decided that a bollard, cable and security gate system would be installed. As on other matters, the effort stagnated so the County was contacted at which time the City promised to move forward. It still took another year before the installation began with the help of volunteers. Throughout these long delays, the Park was punished by errant truck activities.
Fallen Trees The drought left many fallen trees in the Park. Some dead trees make great habitats, but there were far too many. It took many volunteer hours and volunteered equipment to move these dead trees. A partially effective barrier was created to discourage truck traffic from the far north areas of the Park. In another location the trees were piled up to decay into compost. Again, no City participation, but credit was applied toward their obligations to Bexar County.
Bird Blinds Two bird blinds have been placed and embellished inside CBNP with no help from the City of Schertz. These bird blinds are in use every day
Photography Business There were several instances of commercial photographers setting up business inside CBNP. This went on unaddressed for many months before the City finally took steps to suppressed it. The activity still occurs, though the profit-makers use a lot more stealth to avoid law enforcement.
Road Maintenance The asphalt roads that came from the era before the great floods have barely been repaired by the City. Every now and then a few potholes are filled with cold asphalt. This has only been done on the roads where normal traffic is expected. The emergency roads have had no City help and are close to being completely overgrown. When the time comes that these emergency exits will be needed, chances are that escaping vehicles will get stuck in mud, and additional rescue efforts will be required. Adding insult to the City's recklessness, they have been expected to maintain all roads in the Park by their agreement with Bexar County. Schertz, in this cooperation agreement, is expected to maintain all roads for hiking, bicycling and emergency situations. The City is expected to keep the roads clear of vegetation and debris. Now, without contacting Bexar County, they intend to destroy and not replace more than half of the Park's asphalt roads.
Mowing Schedules Because of ground nesting birds there are only certain times of the year that fields can be mowed. Even though reminders have been made, it seems to always take volunteers to perform the necessary labor. Mowing around the bollard and cable system helps to prevent grass fires beneath vehicles. When the Parks Department is under-staffed (a very frequent case), the task falls upon the volunteers.
Controlled Burns Texas Parks and Wildlife has visited CBNP a few times and has recommended occasional controlled burns. This has yet to occur, and the Park is beginning to undergo a transition from the naturally expected vegetation balance.
Walking Paths Bexar County placed a lengthy 5 foot wide crushed granite walk through the Park. Schertz, through its failure to perform the maintenance that is expected of them, has allowed weeds to reduce the paths with to about 3 feet. That reduction continues without any effort from Schertz's Parks and Recreation Department.
Weed Control Invading non-native species are displacing the natural vegetation of the Park. Species such as ragweed, bamboo and china berry have been removed by volunteers expecting that the City would help. No help yet; one can only hope that changes someday.
Interest Trees Schertz promised to place a variety of trees in the Park at locations selected by the Friends of CBNP. The volunteers put several hours into selecting locations and appropriate species for these trees. They were then informed that the City decided to get only 7 trees, all the same species, and crowd them into the area across from a Parking lot. Due to intermittent maintenance by the City, some trees did not survive. Volunteers now care for the remaining trees.
Warning Signs Signs in the Park that warn the visitors of dangers, such as poison ivy, need to be purchased and installed by the Friends of CBNP, because the City of Schertz won't.
Resident Law Enforcement Officer Bexar County, in accordance with the Interlocal Cooperation Agreement (ICA) expect Schertz to place a full-time law enforcement officer on site and to purchase a residence for that officer. Nothing has been done by the City of Schertz toward this end.
Changes to the Interlocal Cooperation Agreement (ICA) Schertz asked the Friends of CBNP to study and suggest changes to improve the ICA. After many hours of careful study and discussions, the Friends of CBNP forwarded their recommendations to Schertz's Parks and Recreation Department and received unanimous approval. All that was left, after all the volunteer's efforts were complete, was to pass the document to Bexar County for adoption, but this has yet to be done by Schertz.


Observations from a Highly Respected Park Visitor

Gary Richards has a B.S. degree in Recreation (with an emphasis in Outdoor Recreation) from Indiana University. He spent close to 30 years working with city, county, state and federal agencies during his work years doing park, recreation and interpretation of historical and natural resources. Mr. Richards worked with the Schertz Parks Department for about three years after moving to Texas from Indiana. Today, he is retired and does freelance photography as a hobby.


Hopefully, the SSLGC Water Pipeline will be rerouted but we need to keep on top of its status.

Next is the Boy Scout camp/picnic area that has been cleared in the park. This park is and was designed as a nature park with wildlife considerations coming first and foremost. I am not against the Boy Scouts but better thought should have been put forth as to where to put them. The area chosen, without input from the public, was a prime winter sparrow area.

Also, it was a corridor that both bobcat and deer used for travel lanes. Now, we have a place where scouts are going to hang out. What happened to having nature as a priority?

People come to this park for the naturalness of seeing birds and wildlife. The more of these types of recreational sites that are put in this park the less it becomes a nature park.

The park has not been maintained properly since it opened. Interpretive signs are in poor condition and look horrible. Trash cans are almost always overflowing, the back parking lot has been the butt of jokes for years as the place to go trucking after a rain. Trash on the side of the road hardly ever gets picked up unless its from me or other visitors using the park who get tired of seeing it. Trees down on the trails are there for weeks before being removed. Sections of the park need to have a prescribed burn to keep out exotics and provide better habitat for native plants and animals. Where is the passion for keeping our nature park a nature park? I am not seeing any from the City at this time.



Further Excerpts from Gary Richards Writings

Just wanted to let you know I support the movement to end the lease with the City of Schertz concerning Crescent Bend Nature Park.

Since before the park opened, I birded the area and knew what wildlife lived in the park.

The park was set up as a nature park, with limited passive recreation.

Over the years there has never been a resource management plan set up to enhance the purpose of the park.

Sections of this park have needed a prescribed burn performed so as to help eliminate exotic plant species and to provide a better habitat for native plants. This proposal has been kicked around but was shot down by the Schertz Fire Department without any real considerations. They just did not want to be bothered with it. And, City officials never really backed it either.

I visit this park on a regular basis and have seen first hand how neglected this park has become.

For instance, I have seen trash cans overflowing for weeks without being emptied. I have seen trash on the side of the roads and trails without staff picking it up. I have seen them drive right by it and keep on going. If not for visitors and volunteers some of this trash would still be out there. There have been several instances where trees have fallen over the trails and not removed. Again, if not for volunteers, these trees would take even more days/weeks to get a staff person out there to remove them.

The far back parking lot has been the butt of jokes since the park opened. When it rains the parking lot becomes a mud hole providing truckers the opportunity to go mudding there. I have seen visitor cars stuck in the mud to the point they had to be pulled out. Several half-hearted attempts by the City to correct this have made it even worse. Today, you have large unsightly hole and pile of debris in the center of this lot.

Interpretive signs in the park have been neglected and look horrible. Labels have been weathered and/or completely removed from the posts to be more or less meaningless to visitors. Some of the metal posts have been hit by mowers and are leaning. Again, this looks very unprofessional. If they are not going to be maintained they should be removed.

The park over the years has become a birding hotspot with several rare species showing up there. Volunteers have built and try to maintain two bird feeding observation areas for both photographers and birders. Most of the materials and food has come from donations.


The road cables have been broken in several areas. When volunteers/staff put these posts and cables up there was supposed to be reflective tape applied between the posts so people would not accidentally run into the cables. Only a portion ever got reflectors and this job was never completed.

The old park roads were blocked from the public to prevent driving in the back sections of the park. Promises were made that these roads would continue to be maintained for hiking, running, bicycling and birding. Since the roads were shut off for automobiles, the only maintenaince of them has been occasional mowing along the road sides. These roads are being reclaimed by nature quickly and soon will not be suitable for bicyclists.

Recently, two new situations have risen in the park. First is the proposal of a water/sewage line to come through the park. This line would be a temporary disruption to wildlife in the park, as well as to birders and hikers. From what I know, they want to use the existing paved roads to dig up for this pipeline with no plans to repave the roads. Their proposal is to put a gravel trail alongside the pipeline. This goes against the promise to keep these roads maintained not only for passive recreation but for emergency fire access as well.

In what I call the big woods area of the park, which is a great wintering sparrow habitat and wildlife corridor, the parks department went in and bulldozed out a large clearing, put in pads with picnic tables for use by the Boy Scouts. This plan was done without any public input and has made birders extremely upset. This was one area of the nature park that was a drawing card for birders who come from both Texas and surrounding states. A simple meeting to talk about the location of where to put the Boy Scouts without doing wildlife habitat damage never took place. Again, this is a nature park with priority for wildlife and yet, wildlife has to be second to the Boy Scouts.

I have seen people in the park shooting guns at targets and turtles in Cibolo Creek. Most of the time when I am in the park, I never see police or park people patrolling for vandalism, etc. It is very rare to see police out there unless they have been called in for something.

Anyway, these are some of my concerns. I know other park visitors have been very upset as well. I know Bexas County is leasing the property to the City of Schertz. It may be time to consider ending this lease and managing it yourself if Schertz cannot show more responsibility. Many people love this park and are very upset to see it going downhill with all the degradations I have listed in this letter.


Editors Note

A regional advisor from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department visited the park several years ago in response to an invitation by the Schertz Parks Director. After becoming quite familiar with the park's condition, he advocated the benefits of periodic controlled burns to eradicate unwanted growth, reduce the fuel load, and benefit native species and habitats on these 200 acres.

Requests by citizens that understand the issues are quickly dismissed by Schertz officials. The fact that controlled burns have not been instituted is wholy a function of decisions by these officials that don't appreciate nature park management.

Volunteers could easily be gathered, trained, and put into service, but not one member of Schertz's decision-makers care to consider the benefits.

This City is not worthy of the beautiful Crescent Bend Nature Park.


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