AUSTIN (KXAN) – Central Texans may soon have a new outdoor activity available: hiking from Austin to San Antonio.

The Great Springs Project is a local nonprofit that’s aiming to build a network of trails connecting the two cities and four springs: Barton, Comal, San Marcos and San Antonio Springs.

“You’ll be able to hike or bike basically from the Alamo to the Capitol,” says Deborah Morin, co-founder and board president of the Great Springs Project.

“80% of Texans (live) within a three hour drive of this area. So instead of thinking about driving eight hours to Big Bend, you could come here and immerse yourself in nature.”

The idea for the project is to protect the Edwards Aquifer by creating a contiguous greenbelt across the area. Morin and her friends have been talking about it for 25 years. It wasn’t until recently that they realized that the rapid growth in the area could soon make the effort impossible, so they decided they had to act fast.

“Back then, nobody ever thought we would grow this quickly,” Morin said. “So there was no sense of urgency. Several years ago, we decided we had to do this now before it was too late.”

The proposed trail network would amount to more than 100 miles of trails across this protected greenbelt.

This year the project will finalize a masterplan that will be done by 2036, the Texas bicentennial. The group is working with a local design firm and the National Parks Service to plot out new trails, figure out ways to connect existing ones, design crossroads with bridges and tunnels, and try to pay for them.

“It’s expensive. The land in a fast urbanizing area cost a lot of money,” Morin says. Grants, public funds and donations from the public will be needed to purchase the land. “Raising the type of money it takes to pull this off I think is the biggest challenge.”

Once the project is completed, local governments and volunteers will be needed to maintain the area. Morin says that they hope to be able to donate some of the land to be turned into a state park, which the state will then maintain.

Why protect the Edwards Aquifer?

According to Morin, the four springs the Great Springs Project will connect are the reason cities in Central Texas exist. “(People) settled in these regions because there was always this fresh clean flowing water.”

The aquifer not only provides water for recreation, but for many towns it is a source of drinking water. Austin and San Antonio have taken steps to protect the aquifer, but much of the land between the two cities has little protection from development, according to Morin.

By protecting these lands with state parks and the trail network, Morin says that the area will only become more desirable for people looking for a place to live.

If you’d like to know more about the project or would live to donate, you can visit their website here.