Can We Save Our Cibolo?
Imagine a day when our Cibolo Creek is no longer a place where children can play, and its banks are lined with signs warning against fishing. Imagine a silent Cibolo, for when the crawdads, minnows and tiny creatures disappear, so do the fish, and birds. Gone are the playful sounds of children and families, school groups and summer camps. Imagine your well water polluted by the runoff from unchecked development…because if we don’t take action now, this will be your Cibolo.
Up to this point, the City of Boerne has had the foresight to protect the Cibolo and keep the creeks that run through our town clean. Historically, high density development has not lined the banks of the Cibolo, Menger, and other waterways that grace our beautiful city. But that could change with the first of many proposed creekside developments. The “Village at 17 Herff”, adjacent to the Cibolo Nature Center and Herff Farm, is now going through public comment and zoning hearings.
Unlike many cities, Boerne has creeks that children can still play in with confidence. Today, the creek is rated as high for water quality, and hosts a healthy population of the vanishing Guadalupe Bass (the State Fish of Texas), along with crawdads and barefoot children. Locally, it is a favorite destination for families seeking to explore Boerne’s natural heritage, fish its waters, take family photographs, and retreat to a clean and quiet place. This is an incredible gift of nature that the Boerne forefathers, City Staff and numerous past and current Councils have helped to protect. It has been no accident. The history of Boerne is all about the Cibolo. It is why the town is here.
Now, for the challenge of our day: Major new high density development is upon us, including apartment complexes and strip malls, much of which will be along the Cibolo and Menger Creeks. Runoff from the parking lots of these developments will contaminate our creeks with heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, bacteria and worse. Parking lots channel the residue from oil leaks and heavy metals from brake-pads into the drinking and swimming water we all prize. Buildings on the edge of the banks will cause erosion and degrade habitat for the creatures we love. If watershed run-off increases as a result of current development practices, flooding will intensify. This will erode stream banks and topple the grand cypress trees along Cibolo Creek. Increased run-off could also flood streets and damage houses along our creeks. Uncontrolled development on the Upper Cibolo could send pollutants into Boerne Lake, an important source of our drinking water.
Growth is inevitable in Boerne, but loss of our creeks and quality of life is not. There are solutions! We must act now to create a livable plan. Proven solutions have been implemented along waterways in many growing cities, now it is our time.
The San Antonio River Authority has been at work for years developing strategies to save the San Antonio River and streams. They have refined Low Impact Development (LID) strategies for our region that enable developers to protect the nearby streams and save money in the process. And Boerne is not far behind. The new City of Boerne’s LID manual will provide all of the tools necessary protect streams, minimize site runoff and enhance water quality. Now our City can have filtered runoff, with reasonable practices along the streams and creeks.
We can save our Cibolo. We can support City efforts to protect our waters by enacting sensible measures to ensure our grandchildren can enjoy what we have. The Planning and Zoning Commission will face more and more requests for variances to permit development along our creeks. Our voices can encourage their work to protect what we treasure. We do not need growth at all costs.
We can encourage our City to continue its tradition of excellence in water management, even in the midst of a booming growth period. Please act now! For the long term, we can participate in the current community discussions regarding the 10-year Comprehensive Land Use Plan (planboerne.com).
But, in the face of the immediate development threat, a precedent will be set for development that will be difficult to undo. We can write, call, or email elected officials to remember their heritage of clean water, and only permit building along the creeks with utmost care and far-sighted solutions. And, we can show up at Planning and Zoning and City Council meetings, and let our officials know we are with them when they are protecting our waters. This is a critical moment in our town’s history, and we are writing it.