Texan by Nature (TxN) is proud to partner with 100+ conservation organizations working to positively benefit Texas’ natural resources and communities through innovative approaches. TxN accelerates conservation by bringing conservation organizations and business together through programs that connect and convene diverse stakeholders and catalyze science-based conservation efforts and projects to accelerate impact.
Learn more about TxN Conservation Partner, Headwaters at the Comal, and how they are restoring a former industrial site into a place that will teach people of all ages the importance of our natural resources.
Q: Tell us about Headwaters at the Comal and its mission.
A: The Headwaters at the Comal strengthens the relationship of the community and nature by showcasing the significance of the Comal Springs, the largest of the great springs of Texas. We are rejuvenating 16 acres at the headwaters of the Comal River where people can learn, have fun, and experience history and nature. We want to inspire lifelong practice of enjoying, protecting and stewarding cultural and ecological resources in those that live in, visit, and make decisions about Texas Hill Country natural resources.
Q: What is the history of Headwaters at the Comal?
A: The Headwaters non-profit was created in 2017 to partner with New Braunfels Utilities on the implementation of a community envisioned, Lake|Flato designed a master plan. The plan, implemented in stages, converts an unsightly, abandoned fleet facility and utility yard into a premier environmental education center inspiring hearts and minds on the importance of conservation to the community. The first phase, completed in November 2017, removed approximately 4 acres of asphalt and impervious cover and replaced it with a green stormwater system channeling close to 11,000 pounds of pollutants away from the headwater springs of the Comal River and created community accessible walking trails and interpretive signage. It also repurposed an old metal building into a beautiful open air pavilion.
Q: How do you work to achieve your mission and who is your audience?
A: Headwaters at the Comal focuses on “four headsprings” of impact:
- Educate & Demonstrate: Inspire a lifelong practice of enjoying, protecting, and stewarding ecological and cultural resources in those that live in, visit, and make decisions about Hill Country natural resources.
- Protect & Conserve: Ensure protection and conservation of the Comal Springs/Comal River system, including the headwaters and the endangered species it supports, in perpetuity.
- Partner in Research: Allow for exploration and discovery of this “new” site; connect New Braunfels with regional science and social science; identify and demonstrate solutions to real world problems.
- Create Community: Provide an innovative, nature-oriented gathering and meeting space that builds a regional ethic of valuing cultural and ecological resources.
Q: What are some examples of your projects or programs?
A: Headwaters at the Comal offers educational programs for all ages. Some of these include:
- Youth S.E.A.M Series: Pre-school and elementary aged children participate in hands-on science, engineering, art and math (S.E.A.M.) focused activities in the outdoor pavilion at the Headwaters. These themed programs provided fun, hands-on activities that introduced students to key science concepts.
- Burned Rock Midden Program: Local boy scouts were given a tour of the archaeology excavation and then helped build a burned rock midden (prehistoric stone cooking oven). During this program, scouts learned about the habits and foodways of the ancient peoples of Central Texas.
- Watershed Watchers: Weeklong, half-day summer camps. Campers participated in daily nature walks focusing on mindfulness. Then hands on, interactive, and investigative field experiences are shared focused on topics including: groundwater, watersheds, succession, geography, the water cycle, weathering, erosion, and deposition. These lesson plans were developed in partnership with local teachers and based on 5th grade science TEKS.
- Native Landscaping 101: This lecture series presented in partnership with the local chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas is geared towards the whole family. Participants learn about the importance of native plants in protecting water resources and providing habitat for native species, how to build and install a rainwater barrel, and the benefits of starting a compost pile.
Q: What are the ecological and economic benefits of your organization’s projects/programs?
A: Comal County has grown by 58% in the last 10 years, and the amount of development and loss of native habitat is staggering. We must engage those moving here on how to be good stewards of the special, sacred springs of Texas–Comal Springs being the largest. The Comal Springs are also home to four endangered species endemic to this region and many more species whose numbers are threatened with extinction. By restoring this very special place at the beginning of the Comal River we aspire to engage those who live, work and play here on the importance of conservation. These ecological and economic benefits are difficult to define but certainly the loss of the springs or extinction of any one of these creatures could be catastrophic.
“It’s so special to work on an urban restoration project in one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. There’s no place in the world like New Braunfels and the Texas Hill Country, so it’s rewarding to do the important work of sharing this ecosystem and educating residents young and old on how we can protect and preserve these beautiful Comal Springs for generations to come.” Lauren Strack, Assistant Manager. Lauren has been with the project since September 2017.
Q: Tell us about the future of your organization. Do you have any upcoming initiatives, exciting events, or even challenges ahead?
A: We are currently focusing our energy on providing high quality, engaging programs as we move into a final push for funding the next phase of redevelopment. This second phase will provide much needed conditioned space and amenities for expanding our programs and impact.
Q: Are there any other interesting news / events / facts about your organization that you wish we would have asked/covered?
A: Our strong partnership with New Braunfels Utilities and visionary master plan has put the Headwaters in the unique position to collaborate with a Municipal Utility on implementing a regional One Water plan. One Water is an integrated planning and implementation approach to managing finite water resources for long-term resilience and reliability, meeting both community and ecosystem needs. When complete the Headwaters will demonstrate on-site reuse, including a blackwater reuse system, rainwater harvesting, green infrastructure stormwater management, low-impact development options including permeable paving option, rain gardens and be a gathering place for stakeholders to engage in Regional One Water planning and implementation.
Q: How can people get involved with and learn more about your organization?
A: We have a website (www.headwatersatthecomal.org) with lots of information including a fly through video of the master plan, a series of educational videos from our 2019 archaeology excavation, ways to become a supporter, volunteer, visit or sign up for the monthly newsletter. If you use social media you can find Headwaters at the Comal on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.