The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment will celebrate 15 years of service and dedication to the Texas State and San Marcos community this year.
Anna Huff, community relations specialist, is coordinating a series of events for The Meadows Center such as the Spring Lake Art Showcase on April 9. Submitted art will be auctioned off, and proceeds will be split between the artist and The Meadows Center’s education program.
“We’re asking local artists to come and paint their own interpretation, whatever style they want to do, whatever scene they want to paint,” Huff said. “We’re going to have a showcase to display everybody’s different style and feel of what this place is to them and kind of bring all that love for Spring Lake all together in one room.”
As the center celebrates its anniversary, staff members reflect on the accomplishments in research, preservation and community involvement.
The Meadows Center conducts environmental research and conservation initiatives in San Marcos and Central Texas. In addition to aquatic research, the center provides educational tours of Spring Lake and 30-minute glass-bottom boat tours. Over 500,000 students have visited Spring Lake since the center started offering tours.
The center also hosts AquaCorps, a team of trained divers who volunteer to help maintain Spring Lake and its inhabitants. These divers are qualified to assist in managing and monitoring the lake.
The lake is inhabited by endangered species which can only be found within the waters and in a research lab, said Taylor Heard, Spring Lake diving coordinator.
“We try to keep the lake an optimal habitat for its endangered species,” Heard said.
The Meadows Center invites volunteers to assist in maintaining one of the world’s largest aquifer-driven spring systems.
According to records provided by the center, there have been 705 volunteer divers who help to maintain the lake over the years. Through their efforts, the population of the endangered Texas wild-rice has increased by 55 percent.
Heard said Spring Lake is his favorite place to dive because the water is consistently around 72 degrees Fahrenheit and “clear like the Caribbean.” Heard first learned to scuba dive during his last semester as an undergraduate at Texas State. He later took a job at The Meadows Center in 2010.
Heard said Spring Lake is special because its water is constantly pumped into it from an aquifer. The lake then feeds into the San Marcos river where locals can swim and fish. Those activities are prohibited in Spring Lake.
Heard said his favorite part of the job is building a relationship between the lake and the San Marcos community.
“I work in the outreach and community involvement,” Heard said. “I think it’s very important that people are able to interact with something that is special because that is how they care about it.”
One way the community and tourists are involved with the lake is through the center’s daily glass-bottom boat tours. Passengers are able to board a boat with a tour guide and view the lake trough a two-inch glass bottom.
The tour guides inform passengers of the fish, turtles and bubbling sand along the bottom of the lake. The bubbling sand spots are actually springs feeding water into the lake. Each spring has a name—the largest spring is called Cream of Wheat because it looks like bubbling oatmeal.
“I actually like to call the springs the Whataburgers of this lake,” said Austin Cowan, education tour guide. “Every once in a while, food comes out, and it’s like fast food for the fish. Like Whataburger, this is mainly only in Texas.”
Thousands of students, researchers and volunteers have worked with The Meadows Center throughout the years. Currently, the center has over 90 partners in its initiative worldwide and has collected over 30 million dollars in research grants since 2002. Additionally, it has helped support the education of over 500 students at Texas State University through research-based projects.
Through the dedication of its scientists and staff, The Meadows Center has published 26 books and has actively monitored 429 sites across Texas for water quality. These sites are monitored by the Stream Team, which is a group of trained divers, data collectors and volunteers who test water temperature and monitor wild life and plant life.