Trails in the northwest sections of Purgatory Creek Natural Area and Spring Lake Natural Area will be closed until June 1 to give the endangered golden-cheeked warblers peace and privacy during their nesting season.
Melani Howard, city of San Marcos watershed protection manager, said the trails are closed to be in compliance with the Endangered Species Act. Howard said disturbances to the warblers’ habitats during nesting season cause them to fly away, eventually reducing the population.
Tanya Sommer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife branch chief of consultations, said the trail closures were necessary to ensure a successful nesting season.
“They are an endangered species and they are breeding,” Sommer said. “And any disruptions in their breeding area from people can cause the birds not to nest or cause the nest to fail.”
The warblers, which nest exclusively in Central Texas, have been on the endangered species list since 1990. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, the warblers nest in juniper and oak trees. These trees are often removed to construct buildings and homes. Their other habitats have been cleared to grow crops or have been flooded.
Howard said the city does not mind closing the trails because the warblers were crucial to receiving the 403-acre land that is now Spring Lake Natural Area.
There was construction occurring directly in the warbler habitat when Wonder World Drive was being expanded, Howard said. The city had to purchase additional properties to offset the impact to get permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to build the road. The 403-acre park was the result.
The Paraiso Trail at Purgatory Creek is closed entirely. All trails west of the Blue Stem and Buckeye Trail junction will be closed, with the exception of those compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Howard said the trails are being closed for the entirety of the warblers’ mating season, which lasts from March 1 to May 31.
“We close the trails so hikers and bikers won’t go to the area, and the birds won’t be disturbed,” Howard said. “They’re able to nest and raise their young, and then we can open the trails back up to park users after the season.”
Howard said she has only received one complaint since the trail closure.
“There was only one person who called and emailed, and I told him he needed to follow up (with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) because this is a federal law,” Howard said. “This is not something that the city passed. We’re simply enforcing a federal law. I haven’t heard back from him.”
Sommer said the trails will be closed as long as there are golden-cheeked warblers in the area, and they are considered endangered. They are the only bird species that nests exclusively in Texas.