Shield Ranch celebrates 80 years of stewardship with a reunion and celebration.

By May 31, 2019 Conservation

Pat Shield Ayres

On a recent Saturday morning, wildflowers and songbirds welcomed a crowd of close to 300 guests to celebrate 80 years of Shield Ranch. Patricia Shield Ayres, daughter of ranch founders Fred and Vera Shield, welcomed guests back to the Ranch, acknowledging that even after four  generations, we are relative newcomers. “We’ve found relics dating back 8,000 years, reminding us of indigenous people who lived on this land. An old settler’s cabin and stacked rock fences tell the story of homesteaders who settled along these creeks in the 1800s,” she explained. “But for eighty years this land has been in our hands and we intend to be faithful to this legacy, to steward this resource for generations to come.”

Former Ranch members reminisced about living and working on the land years ago—long days on horseback working cattle, sheep and goats, and more relaxed times fishing and swimming in the creeks. Guests enjoyed interpretive hikes led by the staff of El Ranchito, a primitive, nature-immersion camp, and a program on Shield Ranch since 2007.

Generations of the Herrera Family who lived and worked on Shield Ranch in the early years

In addition to the El Ranchito summer camp, Shield Ranch hosts scouts, master naturalists, university students, environmental nonprofits, spiritual groups, birders and others to visit the ranch for nature immersion experiences.

Historic photos, scrapbooks and relics were on display during the festivities. As this family honors the deep history of the Ranch, they also share a vision for the future. Another interpretive display provided an opportunity for guests to learn about the recently completed Shield Ranch Vision & Master Plan. New programs will include permanent shelters for El Ranchito and new year-round programming at the campsite.

State Representative Vikki Goodwin, Ranch staff member Christy Muse, Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, and Ranch owner Vera Ayres Bowen

Driving along Hamilton Pool Road west of Bee Cave, one can sense the presence and magnitude of open space among the growing number of new housing developments. Shield Ranch provides scenic views, clean water, a home for wildlife, and quality of life enhancements such as starry night skies that come with living near protected land.

After the party, Bob Ayres stood in the deep shade of an old pecan where El Ranchito campers will gather in June. “I loved seeing so many smiles and feeling so much positive energy.”