FRANKLIN MOUNTAINS NOTES
Newsletter of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition
Next Meeting: May 17, 2006
The next meeting of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition is Wednesday, May 17th at 7 p.m. It takes place in Room 411, Burgess Hall on the UTEP campus. Burgess Hall is at the intersection of Sun Bowl Drive and University Ave. on the west side of the campus. Please be prompt. The building entrance locks automatically in the evenings. If you arrive late and no one is at the door, call 861-4361 and someone will come to let you in. For more information contact Scott Cutler (581-6071).
CASTNER RANGE UPDATE
by John Sproul
El Paso City Council Acts
On March 14, El Paso’s City Council made an important statement on behalf of protecting Castner Range when it approved, by a 7-0 vote (Lozano not present), a resolution authorizing City Manager Joyce Wilson to send a letter to the Army expressing “the City of El Paso’s desire to protect Castner Range in its entirety in its current state, and that it be preserved for future generations and that it not be developed in whole or in part.”
Thanks go to the Council for taking this action. Special thanks are due Reps. Susie Byrd, Melina Castro, Beto O’Rourke and Steve Ortega, members of the ad hoc committee that studied the Castner Range issue and recommended the action taken. The clear support of the City of El Paso for protecting all of Castner Range will be an important factor in the Army’s eventual decision about future disposition of the range.
Fort Bliss Suspends Castner Range Planning
Much of the recent activity regarding Castner Range was stimulated by the Army’s plans to prepare a comprehensive land-use plan for the range. Public meetings to gather initial community input were expected to take place early this year. First, we heard they would be in February. The April. Now it appears they won’t take place at all. Here’s the full text of Fort Bliss’s statement on the current status of Castner Range:
The U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Center and Fort Bliss has determined that due to increased training requirements and budgetary constraints, all planning efforts involving future land uses of Castner Range will be indefinitely suspended. No unsolicited proposals suggesting land use schemes will be accepted or reviewed at this time. If and when Fort Bliss determines that it is practicable to resume evaluating and planning for Castner Range, the Directorate of the Environment’s NEPA office will generate a formal public announcement. Only then will proposals be accepted from interested parties.
The public’s active interest in land use designations and planning efforts for Castner Range has been fully acknowledged and well received. The Fort Bliss NEPA coordinator will ensure that NEPA mandates are fully complied with, and therefore, El Pasoans can rest assured that nothing will occur at Castner Range without first undergoing appropriate public review.
Until that time, we cannot stress enough the dangers of trespassing on Castner Range. The majority of Castner Range continues to remain “off-limits” to unauthorized persons as it is littered with unexploded ordnance and any contact with UXO could result in very serious injury. Because trespassing on Castner Range is a violation of federal law and the safety concern, we ask the public to heed the warnings and observe posted prohibitions.
Public Affairs Officer
Fort Bliss, Texas
Fort Bliss’s decision to suspend its planning efforts for Castner Range does not mean we will suspend our efforts to educate the public about the importance of protecting the range. Our petition to Rep. Silvestre
Reyes urging that he work with Congress and the Army to preserve all of Castner Range in its natural state remains in circulation. We look forward to presenting Rep. Reyes a thick stack of these petitions soon and beginning a dialogue with him about potential mechanisms for achieving lasting protection of Castner Range.
THANK YOU TO ALL PETITION BEARERS AND SIGNERS - SO FAR WE HAVE OVER 1,600 SIGNATURES AND MORE COMING IN EACH DAY.
Franklin Mountains State Park Update
By Danny Contreras, PRII, ADSO
Greetings from the State Park. May is upon us and already it has been very hot. The staff and volunteers at the Park have been very busy with school tours along with our regular tour groups, Outreach Programs and Career Day Programs. We also have been working on the final stages of repair and changes to The Nature Walk, including the wooden bridge.
We would like to thank all the Volunteers for their help with tours and day-to-day Park operations. Thanks, also, to the students from the Sergeant Majors Academy at Fort Bliss, who will be leaving us later this month, for all their help with Park patrols.
Coming up on June 3, 2006, the Serna Ranch Youth Leadership Program, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Franklin Mountains State Park will be hosting a workshop from 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. This workshop is for community and outdoor groups interested in learning new skills, sharpening old skills and networking.
Program sessions will cover outdoor trip planning, basic mountain biking, plant identification, hiking, outdoor cooking, fishing, camping and resources. The registration fee is $25.00 and space is limited to 60 participants. Registrants will receive a confirmation packet by mail or e-mail before the workshop. We are excited to be hosting this program and hope to see you there. For more information please contact Jaime (Slim) Serna at 915-858-2281; Terry Zambrano at firstname.lastname@example.org ; or Tim Spice at email@example.com .
MARK YOUR CALENDARS!
Artists, art-lovers and nature-lovers, The Hal Marcus Gallery is opening a “Save the Arroyos” exhibit which will benefit The Frontera Land Alliance, our local land trust. The exhibit opens July 27th with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. and will run until September 1st, with a gallery talk on August 24th at 7 p.m. The gallery has issued an open call for art in all media depicting arroyos in the El Paso area (submission deadline is June 17th). An entry fee of $10.00 will be matched by The Hal Marcus Gallery and donated to The Frontera Land Alliance to sponsor the artist’s membership in the trust. The Gallery is located at 800 N. Mesa, open Tues. - Sat. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and by appointment. For more information call 915-533-9090 or visit www.halmarcus.com.
PROPOSED QUARRIES UPDATE
By Kathy McConaghie
Two new quarry operations are planned by Jobe Materials - a 200+ acre site on Public Service Board land in Northeast El Paso (about 3 miles north of the North Hills neighborhood and about ½ mile east of the Franklin Mountains State Park’s eastern boundary) and another site in Northwest El Paso owned by the Texas General Land Office, crossed by FEMA arroyos #42 and #41A and close to the State Park. Mining leases have already been signed, apparently with no input from the public or the City of El Paso.
It appears that the Northeast quarry is blatantly inconsistent with the PSB’s Master Plan for its land in N.E. El Paso. This plan shows the area where the quarry is placed as Light Residential and Natural Transition Buffer (open space buffering the State Park).
Jobe has applied for re-zoning from the City and permits from TCEQ and spins the quarry locations as necessary to progress and cost-efficiency as the Northeast Parkway and other projects get underway. He has been interviewed in Newspaper Tree (newspapertree.com), has met with concerned parties., and seemingly addressed some environmental concerns.
The North Hills Neighborhood Pride Association is very concerned about the proposed quarry operation’s dust pollution, damage to local roadways and danger to residents caused by increased heavy truck traffic, and the non-adherence to the Master Plan which provides for no industrial activities in the area. These citizens have excellent reporting and upcoming events on their website - check it out (www.northhillselpaso.org).
This complex issue cannot be fully addressed here. But FMWC is very concerned about new quarry operations so close to the State Park’s boundaries. We intend to follow the story, develop a position and keep you informed. In the meantime, there is an important City Planning Commission Meeting on May 18th at 4 p.m. in which the PSB’s request to change the zoning of the proposed quarry lease site will be considered.
TxDOT Northeast Parkway
TxDOT is currently working on a project called the Northeast Parkway which would ease the congestion on I-10. Plans call for the Parkway to branch off I-10 at Anthony, follow NM 404 across “Anthony Gap” , turn southeast and meet Loop 375 close to Railroad Dr. FMWC is following this project since it affects the Franklins and we will, again, keep you informed. There is plenty of information available at http://www.dot.state.tx.us/ELP/mis/NEParkway/project.htm .
VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT http://iloveparks.com/fmwc/