FAIR OAKS RANCH — A 72-acre tract known as the Arbors Preserve will offer more untouched green space for residents after the Fair Oaks Ranch Homeowners Association recently voted to maintain it.
The association now manages a total of 220 acres of parks and trails for members to use, officials said. In lieu of a city parks department, the municipality has an agreement with FORHA to oversee recreational and wildlife spots in the 30-year-old town.
“Having this preserve provides the opportunity for our residents to enjoy a pristine piece of the Hill Country,” said Mayor Garry Manitzas. “This preserve is a unique feature that enhances the vision articulated by our City Council members two years ago in our strategic planning process when we wrote that we were building ‘a Hill Country hometown with a touch of elegance.’”
Scott Felder Fair Oaks Development LLC donated the plat as part of an agreement in 2016 with the city to create a subdivision, The Arbors of Fair Oaks. The company under the guidance of C. A. Elder provided improvements.
“There were several outstanding issues that needed to be resolved before the FORHA board felt comfortable accepting the land,” said Debra Grandjean, chairwoman of the association’s Parks and Trails Committee.
Grandjean said a tax issue between the developer and the Comal Appraisal District on the property’s valuation delayed FORHA from acquiring the land sooner.
Fair Oaks Ranch straddles Bexar, Comal and Kendall counties.
A resolution came last August when the appraisal district agreed to assign the property a nominal valuation if FORHA accepted the land, officials said. The FORHA board voted in December to take over Arbors Preserve.
Meanwhile, the Arbors subdivision is scheduled to open this spring.
Grandjean, also on the association’s board, said this is the largest single territory ever deeded to the residents’ group.
“Normally the land FORHA receives as gifts are long, narrow pieces … that follow a creek,” she said. “This land is special because once you get across Cibolo Creek, the footing is very easy to navigate and is made up of 72 acres of contiguous property.”
The yearly budget for the preserve’s upkeep is $6,000 and will be supervised by the same contractor, according to Grandjean. The board rejected $14,000 worth of fencing.
Neighbors pay for maintenance through their annual assessments.
FORHA now has four parks and miles of trails around the city, open to members only.
“Along with our wonderful trail system, the preserve is that one more jewel that makes Fair Oaks Ranch so special,” said Councilwoman Snehal Patel.
Boy Scout Blake Federico, from Troop 102, erected 23 trail posts and 42 trail signs in the preserve as his Eagle project.
“Choosing the Arbors Preserve was a no-brainer. Having the honor to be one of the first to work at Arbors seemed memorable,” Federico said. “Really what it came down to was somewhere where I can leave a mark on my community, like a bridge or a park, but instead trail signs.”
The pathway’s placards will direct walkers, plus alert them to boundaries and where water can quickly rise.
Vegetation includes live oak, pecan and cedar trees growing around Cibolo Creek.
“In order to hike the trail, one has to cross the dry creek bed, and if it is flowing, that (signage) should let people know it is not accessible at that time,” Federico said.
The Scout added he finished his work just before last September’s record rainfall.
In 2017, eight naturalists conducting five studies of the preserve found no endangered species and concluded the area isn’t a critical habitat, officials said.
They identified 41 birds, 131 plants, 31 butterflies, three mammals, three reptiles plus six invasive species, and will continue to observe and collect data on the area, the association said.
Patel said her three young sons were fascinated by a colorful spider on a fence post and marveled at a giant gnarled oak tree tangled in vines in the preserve.
“For our budding scientists, there was a sense of wonder and adventure as they explored rocks and boulders of a dry creek bed, hiked through fields of long grasses and cacti in bloom, and listened to the sounds of chirping birds,” the councilwoman added.
Manitzas said he anticipates the city’s Wildlife Education Committee will look for learning opportunities to partner with FORHA and regional naturalists in the future.
As for now, there are no planned upgrades, but guided hikes with volunteer naturalists are coming in the spring, Grandjean said.
“This area is already beautiful and is meant to be kept natural,” she added.
Hiking, bicycling, jogging and horseback riding are allowed in Arbors Preserve, but like other FORHA parks and trails, motorized vehicles including golf carts are forbidden.
For more, visit forha.org.