One of the most pristine stream systems in the state of Texas is a little safer from developers.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) today announced it has purchased 514 acres of land next to the 2,294-acre Honey Creek State Natural Area (HCSNA) in Spring Branch for $25 million.
The sale was finalized June 1.
The organization worked with the Texas Nature Conservancy to reach an agreement with the Urbanczyk family, which owned the property and could have sold it to developers for millions of dollars more.
“This is truly a win for fish, wildlife, and people,” said Zach Spector, director of conservation programs for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF).
Texas State Parks Director Rodney Franklin said the property will be used to expand access to outdoor and nature education. Existing event facilities will serve as venues for special events like weddings and family reunions.
The purchase was made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, state appropriations for land acquisitions and private donations.
Considered the largest cave system in Texas, Honey Creek Cave consists of several miles of underground river that serve as the primary source of Honey Creek, an important tributary of the Guadalupe River that feeds into Canyon Lake. It is also a drainage area for the Edwards Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to nearly two million Texans and the City of San Antonio.
Two parcels of the property were deeded to Comal Independent School District, which will work with the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA) to incorporate green infrastructure into plans for new school on this site.
“How lovely that students will get the chance to learn while surrounded by a nature preserve,” GEAA Executive Director Annalisa Peace said.
She thanked GEAA members who supported conservation efforts early on including Texas Cave Management Association, the Amy Shelton McNutt Charitable Trust, S/M Hixon Family Foundation, Honey Creek Spring Ranch, the National Speleological Society, Bulverde Neighbors for Clean Water, the Dawson and Elmendorf families, Bulverde’s Mayor Krawietz and City Council member Yvonne Chapman.
Honey Creek is considered a pristine stream that supports a healthy and diverse ecosystem and meets an exceptional aquatic life-use category based on samples of water quality, periphyton levels and aquatic life taken by researchers at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), according to information released by TPWD.
HCSNA and the new property are home to a variety of habitats ranging from live oaks, agarita and Texas persimmon to cypress trees adorned with Spanish moss, junipers and Mexican buckeye. The diversity found across the land brings together species like wild turkeys, armadillos, leopard frogs, along with several species with limited ranges including Cagle’s map turtle, Guadalupe bass (the Texas state fish), four-lined skink, green kingfisher, Texas salamander and the Honey Creek Cave salamander.
In 1981, TNC acquired 1,825 acres in Comal County which were transferred in 1985 to TPWD to create HCSNA. Later, an easement in 2022 protected an additional 621 acres around HCSNA. The 515 acres now acquired through the Urbanczyks help to complete the mosaic of ecologically protected lands around the Honey Creek watershed.
The Urbanczyks said they are eager to see the property’s new owners protect and cherish it as they have for the past three decades.
“This sale marks a new era for Honey Creek Ranch, and we are confident that it will be in good hands under the careful stewardship of Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Nature Conservancy,” Ronnie Urbanczyk said. “We are gratified that the state of Texas and its residents will have the opportunity to enjoy this pristine piece of land as we have cherished it for the past three decades.”