‘Hidden gem’ gets a new look, sign and trails


The Friends of the Fredericksburg Nature Center built a stairway along the road as part of phase three of their project to make Cross Mountain Park safer. The road is notorious for washing out and being too steep to climb. — Standard-Radio Post/Autumn Bernhard

By Autumn Bernhard

 

After three years of work, it has now become easier to climb to an inspiring view over Fredericksburg.

The Friends of the Fredericksburg Nature Center finished its upgrade of existing hiking trails and built additional paths in the city-owned Cross Mountain Park late last month.

“Before the trails were redone, they were very unsafe,” said Bill Lindemann, Friends of Fredericksburg Nature Center president. “In fact, one man fell while going up one of the trails and his wife could not lift him. Her screams were heard by a neighbor of the Cross Mountain Park and rescued them. The trails had not been touched since they were built in the 1970s by the Gillespie County Historical Society (GCHS).”

The group decided to make the work on Cross Mountain a three-phase project. The first phase was to rebuild existing trails that were badly washed out, making them safer, and fixing the trails that circled the mountain. Phase two involved completing a middle trail that did not completely circle the mountain. Phase three was to build a new trail parallel to the road that ascends to the top.

 “The work was done by about 15 to 20 volunteers from the trail builders group of the Friends of the Fredericksburg Nature Center,” Lindemann said. “The purpose of building the trails was to provide hikers with a safe place to enjoy the outdoors in a closer venue to the city than Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park.”

Before the renovations, there was only about a quarter mile of trails in the park. Now there is about 1.2 miles.

The group worked on the project for about three to four years every Tuesday during the winter months. They tried to complete one phase per year.

“Each day we were planning to work, I would send out an email to the volunteers about when to meet,” Lindemann said. “Usually every time we worked we had a good turn out with four to five people showing up. Over the whole project, we probably put in 500 to 1,000 hours of labor.”

Most of the people who volunteered were Master Naturalists. To keep the Master Naturalist title, each person must work 40 volunteer hours per year so they used this project to accrue hours.

“A couple of years ago, the Hill Country Historical Foundation purchased the supplies needed to work on the trails,” Lindemann said. “Everything we did was with the city’s blessings and in the end the project was done with little cost to the city. Now it is safe for people to go from the base of the hill to the top.”

The park has not always been owned by the city. It was purchased by Dr. J. Hardin Perry in the 1900s to keep it from being developed, and it ended up in the ownership of the GCHS, which could not afford to do anything with it.

About 12 to 15 years ago there was a three-way trade made between the city, GCHS and the St. Joseph’s Credit Union. The city traded a piece of property on West Main Street to the credit union, which traded its property adjacent to the Pioneer Museum grounds to the GCHS, and the GCHS traded Cross Mountain to the city.

“The city had owned the park for many years without any attention to it,” said Robert Deming, secretary and treasurer of the Hill Country Historical Foundation. “In fact, until we started renovations, the sign at the gate said it was owned by the historical society.”

Not only did the park get new trails but a new welcome sign was added.

“The welcome sign was last year’s Leadership Gillespie County’s final project,” said Kent Myers, Fredericksburg City Manager about the Chamber of Commerce-related group. “The group raised money for the new sign, built it and landscaped when it was placed at the entrance.”

The group had some money left over after finishing the sign, so they purchased two or three picnic tables to place in the park.

“Personally, I played a minor role in the renovations of the park,” said Jimmy Alexander, City Parks and Recreation Director. “The Leadership group came up with the money and constructed the sign. I just got the park crew to do some minimal clearing to fit the sign at the entrance. As far as the trails go, I just reviewed what and where they were going to do and put the trails and pretty much just gave them the green light.”

The city has had a master plan for Cross Mountain Park since 2001 but never had the funding to work on it, Alexander said.

“Cross Mountain Park is still considered a work in progress,” Myers said. “We have a lot of plans to make it a fully developed park, and hopefully within five years it will be one.”

Although it is still a work in progress, the park is still appreciated by visitors and locals.

“I don’t think many people realize how amazing and quiet it is there and the many interesting things you can find there like rocks and birds,” Deming said. “I walk there everyday and I find it to be one of the hidden gems in Fredericksburg.”

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