News From the Network
Op-ed Series: State of the Hill Country
In this series, members of the Network dive in deeper on each metric to show how they apply to individual Hill Country communities. All of the following editorials are available for republishing, with credit to authors and the Texas Hill Country Conservation Network. Please share widely with your readers and friends.
We live in a remarkable place with beautiful resources, wonderful people, and amazing opportunities. People want to live here. They want to experience the quality of life that our region provides. They want to swim in the rivers and creeks, take in the views from the hilltops, and breathe clean air—and at the same time, have access to good jobs, affordable homes, low taxes, and a safe place to raise families.
Unfortunately, without careful attention, this growth will negatively affect all the things we cherish and that drew us to this region in the first place.
Protecting the night sky is not just about the stars, as magnificent as the sight of them might be.
In Hays County, the fastest growing county in Texas and in the country for that matter, we’re working to counteract the conventional view that more people and more buildings automatically means more light and more light pollution.
What makes the Texas Hill Country unique? In my mind, it comes down to one thing: groundwater. It is impossible to overstate the importance of groundwater to this precious region, because without it, the Hill Country would not be the region we know and love.
Fighting to protect water quality in Texas Hill Country waterways is nothing new. I had the privilege to watch, learn from, and help my parents back in the early 1980s as they raised awareness and organized opposition to keep wastewater out of the Nueces River.
Water is an integral part of the Hill Country fabric, and it is embodied in the rivers and springs that make this region special. It is also the single most limiting factor in the Hill Country. The region’s population is growing rapidly and, according to a comprehensive new study from the Texas Hill Country Conservation Network, there simply isn’t enough water available from traditional sources to match current consumption patterns. We need to urgently rethink how we capture water—and how we consume it.
After visiting Gruene recently and encountering the explosion of new housing developments along the old rural roads leading to downtown, I was further disheartened to read that 252 duplex units on 22 acres are “coming soon.” I was left wondering how much more pressure can Gruene, New Braunfels, and all of the Texas Hill Country withstand before significant cracks begin to emerge—compromising their value forever.
Anyone who is familiar with the natural areas of the Texas Hill Country will attest to their beauty and wondrous nature. Crystal clear spring-fed streams, steep canyons and bluffs, majestic forests, and wildflower-laden savannas dotted with oak trees are common sites in this region.
These lands boast long and distinctive histories, beginning with Indigenous peoples living off the land and its abundant wildlife and establishing sacred sites at the springs.
As the new State of the Hill Country Report illustrates, the Hill Country population has increased by 50% since 1990, with most of this growth occurring along the I-35 corridor. The fastest growing counties are Hays County with 195% growth, and both Comal and Kendall Counties with 176% growth. These are three of the five fastest growing counties in the entire United States.
In Kendall County, the City of Boerne has enacted an award-winning Unified Development Code to address the negative impacts of development on the natural environment.