The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment is teaming up with the REI Outdoor School to provide recreational outlets at Spring Lake.
The Meadows Center offers limited access to the lake through water activities such as scuba diving and glass-bottom boat tours. As a result of the partnership with REI Outdoor School, the Meadows Center now offers paddle boarding.
“This new and exciting paddle program is a really unique way to get up, close and personal with a natural resource that is otherwise protected,” said Shane Townsend, senior program advisor at the Meadows Center.
Townsend said archeological evidence found on Spring Lake shows humans have lived around the lake consistently for about 13,000 years, making it the longest continually lived-on site in North America.
“Even now, years later, Spring Lake is still a strong community center because the entire city of San Marcos is built around it,” Townsend said. “Because (the lake) is the head waters of the rivers in San Marcos, this makes it a perfect spot to program this new paddle boarding event.”
He said San Marcos is a fitting location for the new activity because while it is one of the fastest growing outdoor sports in the country, Central Texas is one of the fastest growing regions in the country.
“Even with the current floods, Texas has been in an extended period of drought and that has tainted water resources,” Townsend said. “By teaming up with REI through this program, we plan to raise awareness to Texas’ growing population about the importance of water and its natural resources.”
Cody Ackerman, the Outdoor Programs and Outreach Manager with REI, said some paddling courses were canceled as a result of the historic floods that displaced over 1,000 Hays County residents.
A few San Marcos residents were able to take part in the activity before the May 24 flash floods occurred.
“I took the paddling course and it was my first time being on the paddle board,” said Tom Wassenich, volunteer board member of the San Marcos River Foundation. “The Meadows Center had really good instruction, nice equipment and, above all, Spring Lake was a beautiful place to go paddle boarding.”
Wassenich said he believes there should be limitations to the paddleboard project. He said it is important for students to understand the components of Spring Lake while enjoying the outdoors.
“I do appreciate that the instructors took the time to tell the paddlers about the importance of this natural resource,” Wassenich said. “I don’t like to see the lake used very heavily by humans because it cannot take a lot of pressure.”
However, Wassenich said he would support the courses being offered every now and then.
“It is a great learning experience for those interested in water resources,” Wassenich said. “However, I do think (the paddle board courses) should be done by a limited amount of people for each course.”
Ackerman said along with supporting the new paddling courses at the Meadows Center, REI is providing equipment to promote the Texas Stream Team project.
“This project will encourage citizens to train in a safe learning environment at Spring Lake and will help bring about academic research,” Ackerman said.
Townsend said the projects signify progress in water education in Central Texas.
“We here at the Meadows Center are the stewards of Spring Lake, and part of being the stewards of Spring Lake means we must maintain the quality of the lake and preserve it,” Townsend said.