Growing Pains in America’s Fastest-Growing City of San Marcos
HOLLY HEINRICH / StateImpact Texas
Development May Have Already Damaged Fragile HabitatsSan Marcos, Texas is the fastest-growing city in the nation, in a rapidly-growing state, and with that growth comes concerns over balancing development with environmental and ecological needs.
Tensions over development exist in communities across the country, but they are amplified in San Marcos, which is home to approximately 50,000 people, and a number of endangered species, including rare salamanders and golden-cheeked warblers. The growth in San Marcos has been a source of conflict among residents, as well as a source of pride.
Some residents see the city’s real estate development as an economic opportunity, and necessary to house the growing student population of Texas State University. Others say that new student housing developments are eroding the character of the town they love, and damaging the area’s fragile natural environment.
San Marcos is a unique community for additional reasons. Some Texas State professors are seeking UNESCO World Heritage status for the town, on the basis that it is believed to be the oldest continuously habited place in North America.
Then there are the geologic factors. The area is home to Edwards Aquifer, a natural groundwater system that supplies drinking and other water to approximately two million people, including the residents of San Antonio and San Marcos. In an area known as the recharge zone, rain refills the aquifer by percolating through interconnected holes and fractures in its porous limestone karst. Pollutants can also enter the aquifer through the same process. According to the Texas State Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center, the Edwards Aquifer is home to the most diverse known groundwater ecosystem in the world, and numerous endangered species.
Two sites that have been slated for private student housing development here — one where development has been postponed for three years, and another where plans are moving forward — illustrate the tug-of-war over development that has been occurring in San Marcos. READ MORE....