It was over a few beers on the tailgate of a pickup truck that teacher Irma Lewis had a heart-to-heart with Carla Blumberg about Irma’s dream of a dedicated outdoor education center for Seguin’s youth. That conversation 17 years ago ended with a handshake which sealed Carla’s donation of the first 23 acres of land that became the Seguin Outdoor Learning Center.
Over the years, with the help of the community, volunteers, donors, and business sponsors, Irma and her dedicated team have grown the Center to over 115 acres, housing a natural history center, outdoor stage, pavilion, science lab, fishing and canoeing pond, shooting range, archery range, high and low ropes courses, nature trails, and bike trails. It’s a wonderful testament to the difference one person can make, along with the hard work of dedicated supporters. Irma took her knocks over the years, but she hung in there, and hundreds of youth in Seguin and surrounding communities have benefited from her passion.
The bike trails are what brought us to the SOLC. Board member Pete Silvius invited us out to help get them started on a system of bike trails that will hopefully serve as a practice track and race course for the Texas High School Mountain Bike League. For more than ten years, Pete has taught mountain biking to Seguin’s youth as part of Seguin Independent School District’s physical education program, and he will be coaching Seguin High School’s new mountain biking team. He also teaches a mountain biking class at Texas Lutheran University.
SOLC already has some bike trails on site, built by Pete, his TLU students, and other volunteers, but they need a connected system of singletrack that utilizes the breadth of the property and is built sustainably. We got a full tour of the property and talked to Pete about potential ways to conceptualize a full race loop. This weekend, attendees of our trailbuilding school got things started by cutting in a couple hundred feet of finished singletrack and clearing corridor for a couple hundred more.
Even more important than the physical trail that got built this weekend was the great networking, education, and dialogue that took place. Participants of the weekend’s activities included friends of SOLC, Seguin’s City Planner, park staff from the City of Gonzales, students from Texas Lutheran University and Texas State, folks of the Land Heritage Institute in San Antonio, and members of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, the Greater Houston Off-Road Biking Association, the Government Canyon State Natural Area, and other interested community members.
In addition to learning about the science and art of sustainable trail building, participants learned about the economic and health benefits of natural surface trails at our Better Living Through Trails presentation. There was a lot of audience engagement and an extended Q&A session as folks explored the potential for trails in their respective areas and discussed ways to get their communities engaged in outdoor recreation. We can’t wait to hear about how some of the seeds planted over the weekend come to fruition!
Thank goodness for visionaries like Irma Lewis and Pete Silvius for getting great things started and inspiring others to help see them through. We would like to thank them for having us out, as well as extend our thanks to the TLU Center for Servant Leadership for providing our room and board for the weekend. And thanks to all participants who braved the wet, mucky weather to spend time with us!
Our photos from the weekend:
Katherine's photos from the weekend: