Sunday, August 31, 2014

El Paso Times publishes important Op-Ed on
Franklin Organ Mountains Conservation Cooperative



In case you missed it I want to make sure that all of our readers get a chance to read Janae' Reneaud Field's recently published Op-Ed on the Franklin Organ Mountains Conservation Cooperative published by the El Paso Times earlier this month on August 10. There are several easy ways you can show your support for this effort. If you are on facebook you can visit https://www.facebook.com/franklinorganmountains and like the page and or sign up for the email list. You can also make a phone call or drop a line or two in support of the effort to one or more of your elected representatives.

There are a number of important conservation efforts going on in our community at this time focused on protecting wildlife habitat. Others are posted on my website at iloveparks.com. Please become better informed and take some kind of action in support of these efforts.

Here is a copy of Janae' Reneaud Field's op-ed.


Janae' Reneaud Field: New tool helps ecology efforts

By Janae' Reneaud Field / Guest columnist


During the summer of 2012, the Frontera Land Alliance received technical assistance from the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.

In support of community-led natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the nation, a national network of conservation and recreation planning professionals partnered with community groups, state and local governments in designing trails and parks and helping to protect special places.

Shortly after the award, Frontera helped to form The Franklin and Organ Mountains Conservation Cooperative (FOMCC).

Today, FOMCC is championing a community effort to develop a conservation inventory tool that will strengthen and provide scientific data to assist in managing Plan El Paso, the Northwest Master Plan, the El Paso Sustainability Plan, the El Paso Open Space Plan, Doña Ana County Comprehensive Plan and other regional efforts that identify preserving large, connected natural areas.

This tool will not revamp, replicate or replace existing plans, but will provide GIS data to assist in making sound decisions.

The tool will take a close look at our plant life, wildlife, soil, geology, arroyos, ranches, farms, etc. and rank undeveloped lands from high to least importance in conservation value.

The land conservation inventory tool is supported by the partnership and collaboration of federal, state and local agencies, local businesses including developers, Realtors and non-profits in New Mexico and Texas.

The FOMCC will work with people and organizations that have diverse interests yet share a common place and purpose.

The FOMCC will provide an interactive GIS-based map of lands ranked by their importance for further development and conservation.

Over the years we have seen the Southwest region work to offer a better quality of life through collaboration and partnerships with developers, citizens and environmentalists as referenced in the white paper found at
http://fronteralandalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/White_Paper_March_2014.pdf or at www.facebook.com/franklinorganmountains.

These entities and organizations have laid the foundation for growth and preservation. Still, the region is facing some tough issues.

For instance, there are just 1.38 acres of park space for every 1,000 persons in El Paso. We continue to experience flood damage that may result from the filling or alteration of arroyos. There is a loss of wildlife every time we level terrain.

Responding to these and other challenges requires concerted action and collaboration from all stakeholders.

Unless we work together as one region across political boundaries, we may be overwhelmed by the dramatic shifts in demographics and changes in our environment. 


Therefore we must create a framework which will give us and our organizations greater freedom to protect and improve the green spaces which are critical to our needs.

This framework must be based on firm science.

Whether we live in the city or in rural or wilderness areas, we rely on the natural systems that support us.

The health of natural environments affects our health and happiness and gives us a sense of place, pride and identity.

If you are interested in learning more contact Frontera at 915-351-8352 or email janae@FronteraLandAlliance.org.


Janae' Reneaud Field is executive director of the Frontera Land Alliance.













Monday, August 18, 2014

City Council Postpones Kern View Estates Item for 60 Days

I just got word from Ellen Esposito that City Council has decided to postpone the item about the Kern View Estates site plan for 60 days. I suspect that the great work by Esposito and Mission Hills, Kern Place and Sierra Crest neighborhoods is having an effect. I know that elpasonaturally's post the other day has led to action. Read that post again and follow the links. There isn't any need to go to City Council tomorrow morning but certainly emailing or calling your City Rep and signing the petition still will have a big impact. 

If you want to get involved or get on Ellen's email list, email her at eldesposito@gmail.com.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Opposition to the New Kern View Estates Development Grows

Click image to enlarge. Aerial view of location of proposed Kern View Estates along with other maps can be found in the back-up material for the proposed ordinance to approve the KVE site plan on the upcoming 08/19/14 City Council agenda.
Plans to develop land on the western slope of Crazy Cat mountain have been around for several years now. One would have thought that the matter was dead in 2009 when there was an elpasonaturally post on the subject. Developers have sought buyers who might preserve the land and are still interested in that possibility. The catch is that they reportedly want $750,000 for the 16 acres in question or close to $47,000 per acre.

Just to the north of the site is an EPWU facility at the end of Piedmont. It has been a popular trailhead for hikers, mountain bikers, runners and other recreationalists who like the easy hike into open space where they can circle Crazy Cat and exit at the Palisades trailhead. 

It is not a very good location at all for a development because it is landlocked by the narrow street, O'Keefe, and further development in this location would negatively impact the intersection of O'Keefe and Stanton Street with added traffic congestion. The development would also increase stormwater runoff into the lower neighborhoods. The entire list of reasons NOT to develop is much longer than the 3 items I just mentioned.

The Fire Department has listed a number of changes that must be made for their approval. The City Plan Commission narrowly recommended the site plan by a 4-3 vote; but it is no secret that CPC has become in essence a second meeting place for  El Paso builders and developers and Five Points Business Association fellows - you know - the guys who would rather keep Central El Paso ugly rather than use more efficient planning as suggested by Plan El Paso.  

Kern Place and Mission Hills neighbors are quite vocal in their opposition. There is a petition circulating opposing the development and the number of signatures continues to grow. The Mission Hills Neighborhood Association even devoted their August newsletter entirely to opposing the site plan.

You can as a neighbor or as a citizen of El Paso who values open space and is fed up with tearing up our mountainsides with development do three things:


  1. Sign the Petition and ask others to sign it. Ellen Esposito has taken the lead and you can contact her at 915-274-2511.
  2. Email your City Rep. The MHNA August newsletter has contact info or look on the City of El Paso web site.
  3. Finally, join the crowd that will attend next Tuesday's, (August 19, 2014) City Council meeting. The matter (item 12.2) comes up quickly on the regular agenda. City Council begins at 8:00. See a map of City Hall's location. There's plenty of parking to the east of City Hall down Mills Avenue.

The best that can happen: Postpone the item. Know that Charlie Wakeem has added it to the agenda of the September 3rd Open Space Advisory Board meeting. 

I suspect that the developers really want to deal. City Council should do everyone a favor and give them that time.




Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bielek Backpedaling on State Park Entrance?

TxDOT Regional Engineer, Bob Bielek, appears to be backpedaling on his promises about a Franklin Mountains State Park entrance. A plan to connect the southern and northern sides of the park dissected by Transmountain Road was set to begin this fall. On April 11, 2014 at City Council Rep. Carl Robinson's breakfast meeting, Bielek said regarding the connectivity project: "Expect to start in Fall 2014.  Will take 3 – 4 months to complete.  Not a difficult project, because it is a short-span bridge.  Costs a bit over $1,000,000." His statement was not much different from what he indicated in November of last year to a group of park advocates prior to a public meeting in December. Bielek told the public that his discretionary funds would pay for the project.

Now Bielek is saying, as elpasonaturally has learned, that the project might begin in January and that he is looking for money for it.

The plan called for a new park entrance with a corridor under the Transmountain highway for animals, mountain bicyclists, hikers and other pedestrians. Conceptual drawings may be viewed at this post. The TxDOT page of the drawings is not loading well currently.

It seems that Bielek is backpedaling on the project which suggests that he was never serious about it before. "He often tells people what they want to hear," one observer mentioned. 

What's next? Perhaps like so many public projects the actual start date is actually much later than originally estimated. It may be prudent to wait until December to see what, if anything, happens. If nothing, then it will be obvious that once again TxDOT has been less than honest with Texas citizens they are supposed to be serving.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Impossible Dream?

The Rio Grande in Northern New Mexico, Photo album by Rick LoBello


I have this view of the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico on my website at iloveparks.com.  Every time I look at it I ask myself this question. Why can't we bring back the Rio Grande to look something like this around El Paso? Are we not smart enough to do it or do we lack the will? I think it is about will. We have to want it.

I will never forget July 21, 1969 when Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first to step onto the lunar surface. Heck if we can put a man on the moon don't you think we can restore part of the Rio Grande back to its original state?

I think it is possible, but only if the community, especially the millennials out there who have the most at stake, will get involved in supporting efforts helping to protect their environment.

I am disheartened by the number of people who are more connected to their cars and their fun activities inside buildings, who have no idea of how important our natural environment is to their quality of life now and in the future.

Join me in reaching out to younger generations. They need to know how to invest in their quality of life and their future.

On my website I have listed a number of things that people can do to get involved here in El Paso. If you have other items you want me to add let me know.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Open Space Equals Millions of Eco-Tourist Dollars

Picture of Franklin Mountains courtesy of Scott M. Cutler

Read the following press release dated July 18, 2014 from Karl Pierce of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Now imagine preserving more of our Franklin Mountains, saving Cement Lake, providing enough water for the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park and conserving Castner Range. Come on, El Paso! Good stewardship of open space means major eco-tourist dollars!


Tourism to Guadalupe Mountains National Park creates $8,500,500 in Economic Benefit

Report shows visitor spending supports 111 jobs in local economy


Pine Springs, TX – A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 145,670 visitors to Guadalupe Mountains National Park in 2013 spent more than $8.5 million in communities near the
park. That spending supported 111 jobs in the local area.

“Guadalupe Mountains National Park is proud to welcome visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Superintendent Dennis A. Vásquez. “We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides and to use the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy - returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service - and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”

Vásquez continued “as we begin to wind down summer and head into fall, which is traditionally the busiest time for park visitation, people come from around the region to enjoy the colorful fall foliage in McKittrick Canyon, Smith Spring, Dog Canyon and Devil’s’ Hall during Fall Colors. In the coming weeks, we will open the new Salt Basin Dunes Day Use Area, near Dell City, and are confident that visitors will enjoy that unique area of the park, which contains the third largest gypsum dune field in the world. The park contains the largest Congressionally-designated wilderness area in the state of Texas, and we hope everyone will join us as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964 this fall. We look forward to partnering with the Texas Mountain Trail, the Texas Master Naturalists and others on a variety of programs. We invite our neighbors, from throughout Far West Texas and Southern New Mexico, to actively participate in upcoming park planning efforts, such as a new wilderness stewardship plan,
through http://parkplanning.nps.gov, through participation in public meetings, or by contacting your park with questions, concerns or suggestions, in addition to enjoying the wonderful natural, cultural and recreational resources that this park offers.”

The 2013 economic benefit figures are somewhat lower than the 2012 results. The 16-day government shutdown in October 2013, along with closures of the park, which resulted from historic
flooding and storms damage in September 2013, accounted for most of the decline in park visitation. The authors also cited inflation adjustments for differences between visitation and visitor spending, jobs supported and overall effect on the U.S. economy.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz for the National Park
Service. The report shows $14.6 billion of direct spending by 273.6 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.

According to the 2013 economic analysis, most visitor spending was for lodging (30.3 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees
(10.3 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent). 

The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

To download the report visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. To learn more about national parks in Texas and New Mexico, and how the National Park Service works with Texas and New Mexico communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/Texas or www.nps.gov/NewMexico.
-NPS-