People are wondering what the city can do to ensure the safety of pedestrians at Aquarena Springs and Sessom Drives.
The answer might be nothing.
Sabas Avila, interim director of capital improvements, said the city is constrained as to what it can do at the intersection because of endangered species in the area.
Avila answered student senators’ questions regarding the busy intersection at the Nov. 10meeting. Senate members mentioned numerous accidents.
The Texas Department of Transportation is the leading authority for the major roads in San Marcos, Avila said.
“The San Marcos River is home to several endangered species,” Avila said. “U.S. Fish and Wildlife have their eye on San Marcos to protect them.”
One of the endangered plants is the, which is only found in the San Marcos River.
The plant is an endangered species growing in the section below Saltgrass Steakhouse and Sewell Park, said Glenn Hanley, campus recreation director. Hanley supervises the area of Sewell Park.
“Every construction project happening in that area is overlooked by the Texas Parks and Wildlife, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife,” he said. “I think the university itself, the River Systems Institute, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, are all concerned with maintaining the quality of the river. To do that, you have to protect the wild-rice, which impacts the overall quality of the river itself, and leads to the protection of other endangered species.”
Visitors are not supposed to be in the area of the wild rice because it could cause damage to the ecosystem, Hanley said.
“I believe in maintaining the quality of the river,” he said. “I do not believe that intersection is even a good place for it to be, for the river, but, that decision was made a long time ago.”
Senate members voiced concerns about the well being of citizens. ASG Sen. Matthew Ferreira, biology senior, said there is always concern for pedestrians crossing at the intersection.
“I am all about conservation,” Ferreira said. “It is an honor and a privilege to have these rare species, but at the same time we need to be weary and take care of our citizens.”
Ferreira said he appreciates Avila speaking with ASG and it would be worth the time and money to look further into this issue.
“I really feel students have a priority over some wild rice,” Ferreira said. “There are different ways to go about it, to have their cake and eat it, too.”
Ferreira said Avila was not sure the city would invest in the area if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state approved any construction plans.
“Increasing capacity at that intersection would be difficult,” Avila said. “Can it be done? Yeah, but at an expensive cost. I cannot even imagine what the cost of an environmental assessment would be.”
Avila said as many incidents occur at Aquarena Springs and Sessom Drives as other intersections in San Marcos.
“Could it be safer? Yeah, sure,” Avila said. “But I would not argue it as unsafe.”
Avila said the City Council decides on investments and students have the right to lobby councilmembers.
Ferreira said the university is aware of the situation.
“Obviously the job of student government is to voice the concerns of the students,” he said. “It is our responsibility to speak up. That is all we can do.”