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Local students leave mark at University Camp

Star File Photo

Members of the San Marcos community are finding unique and artful ways to educate students while protecting the environment.

In May, the Katherine Anne Porter School teamed up with University Camp to bring some color to the camp’s bathhouse with a mural created by students. The mural was painted with the camp’s environmental philosophy in mind. University Camp has adopted a “leave no trace” policy. The concept of this policy centers on basic outdoor ethics and environmental consciousness.

John Giffis, outdoor recreation coordinator of University Camp, said the primary goal for outdoor recreation is to get people outside. Sometimes, this backfires and damages the environment with litter from human interaction. Giffis said the new policy is due to the lack of respect some people have for the outdoors.

“We had this philosophy in the back of our head as we were looking to get some partnerships with community groups around the Wimberley area,” Giffis said. “Eventually, we came in contact with the Kathrine Anne Porter School, and we decided to team up.”

The University Camp is 126 acres of land owned by Texas State. The land is located outside of Wimberley, along the Blanco River. The property has a trail system suitable for hiking, biking and scenic viewing.

Giffis proposed the idea of the partnership with the Katherine Anne Porter School to provide mutual support and service. By teaming up, the school will be given access to the camp and its forestry and wildlife classes.

Around a dozen students helped redecorate and paint a mural now in the camp’s bathhouse. The mural has “leave no trace” written across the wall, with green leaves forming the shape of each letter. The words are surrounded by plants, flowers, animals and a landscape filling the background.

Everett Gray, sophomore at the Katherine Anne Porter School, was one of the art students who participated. Gray said the environmental inspiration behind the design of the mural was the best part of participating in its creation.

“The art class came out and painted a really beautiful mural which turned out really awesome on the bath house,” Giffis said. “We are now going to help support their wildlife and forestry classes by giving them access to day use to the camp and support them in that aspect the best we can.”

Lindsay McClune, development associate at the Katherine Anne Porter School, said the partnership is important for reasons beyond having access to the camp.

“Not only was it important to have access to the camp, the grounds, the river and everything it has to offer, but having somebody like John who also shares the same passion and mission of getting kids outside and knowing how to treat the environment definitely played a role in forming our partnership,” McClune said.

McClune said one of the school’s core values is environmental stewardship. Faculty and staff aim to teach their students to practice stewardship every day, which is something the partnership emphasizes.

“We want to teach our students to practice how they as human beings have an impact on this earth and how there is a proper way to treat (the) earth to where we don’t have to leave such a huge carbon footprint,” McClune said.

The newly-painted bathhouse can be found in between the camp’s two lodges, Jeffersonian and Beretta.