Established in May 2020, the Horseshoe Bay Nature Park (HSB Park) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and preserving the indigenous habitat of Texas Hill Country. The park’s 11-acre site was originally platted for high-density condominiums. Horseshoe Bay has experienced explosive growth and the subsequent loss of native habitat, open space, and migratory birds and pollinators. The community strongly opposed the zoning, and conservation-minded citizens came together to save and restore the land and educate the community about the remarkable natural heritage of the Highland Lakes region.
In late 2019, landowner John W. Smith and then-Mayor of Horseshoe Bay Steve Jordan first spoke about turning the land into a nature park. The nonprofit HSB Park, Inc. was formed in May of 2020 and began planning and raising funds with outpouring of support from the local community and conservation organizations throughout Central Texas. Ecological planner, Elizabeth McGreevy, was hired to create the park’s conceptual master plan. Design development and construction were completed by land design firm Twistleaf. Other contributors included the Highland Lakes chapters of NPSOT, the Birding and Wildflower Society, and Master Naturalists, as well as Travis Audubon and the Chimney Swift Conservation Association.
Project Description & History
Located on rolling upland prairie just south of Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, Horseshoe Bay Nature Park showcases the community-led restoration and stewardship of 11 acres of Texas Hill Country habitat. The park is an active conservation and prairie restoration site providing nature education and a place for visitors to relax and walk the trails. The park’s design is intended to highlight and preserve existing species and features of the land while adding elements that will continue to enrich biodiversity over time.
Horseshoe Bay Nature park is uniquely situated on the Monarch Highway and the migratory paths of many bird species, which follow the chain of Highland Lakes. Within the park, eight ecological zones support hundreds of native species of flora and fauna. Contour swales are placed to prevent erosion and capture precious rainfall. HSB Park, Inc. was the recipient of a grant from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Native American Seed, supporting multiple phases of native seed planting.
The park is free to all visitors year round. Its website features curated educational resources and interactive activities for adults and children to learn about the local ecosystem and implement conservation projects at home or in their own communities. A half-mile walking trail winds through mixed tallgrass and shortgrass prairie, wooded areas, and granite outcroppings. Along the trail, an observation deck, bird blind, watering station, nesting boxes, and Chimney Swift towers introduce visitors to the park’s unique and varied wildlife. In 2023, the park received a grant of $17,571 from LCRA and PEC to install 15 interpretive signs. The new, educational signage explains the wildlife geology, water conservation, trees and plants along the half-mile walking trail within the park
The grasslands are home to diverse native plants including Texas bluebonnets, Canada wildrye, little bluestem, prairie parsley, skeleton plant, red lovegrass, gummy lovegrass, coreopsis, and silver bluestem. Other standout native species include colonies of Buckley’s yucca, wooly lipfern, lace cactus, and six species of milkweed. Texas live oak mottes and thickets of Ashe juniper, agarita, Texas persimmon, Eve’s necklace, and catclaw mimosa provide habitat and nesting sites for wildlife. Pollinator populations are supported through the stewardship of food sources, preservation of habitat, and beehives.
Horseshoe Bay Nature Park provides ecosystem services including preservation of native species, habitat, and biodiversity, soil formation and erosion control, pollination, and invasive species management. The park is also a resource for community education, wellness, tourism, and recreation. Horseshoe Bay Nature Park preserves a precious piece of a vanishing ecosystem for generations to come, while positively impacting the people, prosperity, and natural resources of the Highland Lakes Region. The region is unique for many reasons, but is especially so because of its location on the migratory paths of many bird and pollinator species. As native habitat loss increases due to population growth and development, it is even more critical to preserve and protect the ecosystem and to educate people about natural heritage and conservation.
In its first year, Horseshoe Bay Nature Park naturalists and bird watchers identified over 235 species of plants and wildlife, including bluebonnets, bats, herons, orchard orioles, northern cardinals, black vultures and birds.
HSB Park, Inc. is currently raising funds for future projects at the park, including invasive species control, planting of native trees and shrubs, and natural playscapes for children.