Starting Tuesday, area residents will have an opportunity to engage with the natural marvels at Park West through a guided hike with the Guadalupe Master Naturalists.
The weekly “Walk with a Naturalist” event will allow any and all attendees at Park West to take a journey through nature with volunteers, every Tuesday at 9 a.m. from February to April.
“The naturalists have done a lot for education, but most of our stuff has been geared towards children,” master naturalist Nancy Masterson said. “This will be a first of its kind event and will target adults instead. Spring is such a beautiful time of year and Park West is a nice walk.”
The walks will take interested folks through a circular, sub-mile hike, while naturalist guides point out unique plants, wildlife and conservation efforts. The information given is easy for anyone to understand, as the naturalists are volunteers with a vested interest.
“We came up with the reoccurring event because among the naturalists, we have no experts, but we have interests like normal people,” Masterson said. “Using these interests, we thought why not get some people on a pretty trail in the spring?”
Guadalupe Master Naturalists is a volunteer-based organization that strives to keep the public educated and interested in the outdoors. The Guadalupe County chapter was founded five years ago and has grown since, Masterson said. The naturalist walks are made possible through a partnership between the group, Seguin Parks and Recreation and the Guadalupe County AgriLife Extension Office.
Besides appreciating nature and having fun, the walks also have a wellness aspect. According to a study by George Washington University, exercising for two hours once a week can make up for sitting at home or in an office the rest of the week. Walking through nature also lowers blood pressure and makes you feel better, Masterson said.
This focus on health is congruent with AgriLife’s Be Well, Live Well series at the Seguin Public Library, where information on naturalist walks are handed out to people who could benefit from the program the most.
“A lot of people are on concrete and asphalt all day,” AgriLife County Extension Agent Jeff Hanselka said. “A walking program does good for health. Park West is a real unknown gem and the city has really taken over creating these natural areas. Park West conservation has also been instrumental in removing invasive species.”
Preserving Park West and the focus of the naturalist walks instill the urgency to tackle invasive species of plants in the community. The invasive species can overcrowd or even actively harm the native plants in the area. Extra attention was given to preserving Guadalupe County’s oak and pecan trees, for both the old growth that is still present and future trees needing to be nurtured, Masterson said.
“We’ve done extensive work in Park West to remove exotic plants,” Masterson said. “A lot of Asian plants with no predators on this continent have been introduced to local natural areas and they grow more rapidly than native species. When we preserve natural biodiversity, that’s when you hear the birds singing and you see foxes and raccoons playing in the woods.”
The walks also aim to pique the interest of anyone who might want to join the Master Naturalists. Training for the position will start in August, three months after the walks conclude. The training is sponsored by Texas Parks & Wildlife and AgriLife.
The trail is wheelchair accessible and each walk lasts about an hour. Attendees are encouraged to wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes and bring water.
“Just go out and walk a little bit once a week,” Masterson said. “Everyone really should get to know this park.”