Thursday, July 28, 2011

And the Winners Are . . .

Dave Webster and Carol Culver won our Take the High Road contest.

Dave was the first person to submit the correct answer along with carefully-prepared documentation using Google Earth. The contest was based on a clip from a 1953 Richard Widmark film shot on location here in El Paso. Most contest respondents guessed that the mountains in the background were those along Castner Range up to the beginning of the North Franklins. Of course, Transmountain Road is not in the movie because it wasn't completed until 1970.

Here is the Google Earth picture which Mr. Webster sent elpasonaturally:

Click on image to enlarge.

Dave explains:

"We are looking at the mountains from the east side and the tall peak to the left of Richard Widmark is N. Mt. Franklin. Freeze the clip at 0:52, then compare that to the view in the attachment. To duplicate my impressive result, go to Castner Range in Google Earth and find the point where the Patriot Freeway and Diana intersect. Zero in close to ground level, then tilt the North indicator toward the northeast so the view is looking northwest. Finally, tilt the whole thing sideways to get a street-level view."

Dave was the kid in class who always had his hand up.

Although not first, Carol Culver was the only person who also identified the location of the mountains in the second (tear gas) clip of the movie as those behind Logan Heights. Freeze the clip at 2:20 and compare with the street view that you get by manipulating a map of the intersection of N. Stevens and the 3600 block of Broaddus Avenue looking west toward the mountains.

Carol's husband, Dwight, says that he wants red enchiladas with eggs.

Finally, historian, journalist and Parish Council President of Our Lady of the Valley Parish, Michael Lewis, added this note:

"The real basic training site at Fort Bliss is now where Chapin High School and Colin Powell Elementary School are located, part of Fort Bliss' 'Paso del Norte Heights' housing area for senior NCOs."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Song of the Day: Emily Davis "You Lost This Draw"

A huge young talent from El Paso is Emily Davis. I first heard her at the Medallions Restaurant on Texas Avenue. This video was done a few years ago at Tom Lea Park. I love El Paso and the Sierra de Juarez in the background. Subscribe to her YouTube channel.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It Isn't Over

Here's today's elpasonaturally e-letter:

It’s not over until . . . you know the rest. The Federal Highway Administration has taken some time now to rule on TxDOT’s Environmental Assessment of its Transmountain project. They will either accept the EA or notify TxDOT that they must perform a full blown Environmental Impact Study. There is a Sierra Club account to collect money for legal fees in case FHWA says an EIS is not needed. “In that case the next step would be to sue TXDOT and FHWA,” a Sierra Club official told me. The Sierra Club attorneys will obviously not do anything else until FHWA has made their decision regarding the EA.

There is, however, the petition that has been re-circulating. It does not call for Transmountain not to be widened. It does call for keeping nearly 800 acres natural and it would prevent some of the major overpasses from being built as described in the Chris Roberts El Paso Times story, Bypassed, a story that keeps being talked about and keeps angering people.

Petitioners are carefully checking each signature to make sure that they are those of registered City of El Paso voters. Download the petition here. Email me and I’ll come pick it up or tell you how to mail it to me ASAP. The petition is just a sliver away from getting enough signatures. Even if City Council were to turn down the petition, the FHWA needs to know that El Pasoans don’t like being bypassed and don’t like the project as designed. There is no virtue in getting lots of highway money for El Paso went that money is spent on environmentally bad, poorly designed and poorly presented projects.

Even if you think that you signed the petition before March or April, you can sign again. Any doubt, sign.

Read the El Paso Inc. story about the state parks cuts. The El Paso Times also did a piece on last week’s massacre of Texas Parks and Wildlife employees that hit El Paso the hardest. One of my readers questioned my use of the term “firing” when I spoke about the termination of employees here in El Paso. She suggested that “laid off” was more apropos since “firing” has the connotation that the persons being laid off did something wrong. None of these people did anything wrong except work in El Paso for the TPWD since El Paso is a city unrepresented on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. Each and every one of these eight people has been hurt and will be missed. It is a tragedy and a travesty to lose John Moses, the John Wayne/Sean Connery of our local state parks. John wasn’t a pencil pusher. He got out there and knew the trails and the terrain of every square inch of our parks. I just hope he sticks around El Paso and continues to enrich our community with his leadership and wisdom.

Please support our friends at the Southwest Environmental Center. Read more here. Also, please visit Trap Free New Mexico, learn more, visit the petition page and the Facebook page.

Please Support the Southwest Environmental Center

Mid-year 2011 Appeal (2)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Take the High Road to Kiki's

In 1953 Richard Widmark starred in a movie shot on location here in El Paso: Take the High Ground. You can see two clips here. Both clips show mountains in the background although the first clip gives a better and longer view of the mountains. Be the first to tell me what part of the Franklins are shown and you win a free lunch at Kiki’s, El Paso’s Mexican restaurant featured on the Food Channel.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Massacre! Statewide there were 29 people fired from Texas Parks and Wildlife – 8 of them (28%) were from El Paso including Superintendent John Moses. From our region of Texas Parks and Wildlife (an area spanning 450 miles from Abilene to El Paso) eight people were fired. Of course, all 8 were from El Paso – our beloved Superintendent, 2 of his office staff and 5 workers at the Wyler Tramway.

Regional Director, Dierdre Hisler from Ft. Davis (over 200 miles away from El Paso) will oversee Dr. Cesar Mendez of FMSP and Ms. Wanda Olszewski at Hueco Tanks.

El Paso was once represented on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission by a political donor of some significance. El Paso is no longer represented. Want to know why the 8 firings were all from El Paso? Anyone with deep pockets want to contribute to Perry’s Presidential ambitions?

One bit of very good news: our Urban Wildlife Biologist, Lois Balin, will keep her job although it isn’t certain as of today if she will stay in her same office building.

Time to put the mountain lion incident to bed. Police Chief Greg Allen made some important changes with the notification process in such events – a change which will help put the right people on the scene, manage crowds and facilitate communication. However, the lion incident still reminds us that, especially in this drought, animals are entering “our” space more and more. Hikers are now regularly reporting deer sightings at lower elevations. Many people have argued for more water guzzlers for wildlife. Also of continuing concern is protecting wildlife corridors – something the TxDOT Transmountain plan has never addressed although they could provide plenty of overpasses for those they colluded in secret with while bypassing the public.

El Paso needs to adopt a similar plan to one in Pima County, Arizona which is committed to the long-term survival of the full spectrum of indigenous plants and animals and the conservation of its cultural resources. Learn more about the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan at their well-documented web site. El Paso’s Open Space Advisory Board does regard preserving ecologically-sensitive and riparian corridors as prime factors in choosing open space for protection. Recently OSAB recommended that Cement Lake become first on the priority list for acquisition. OSAB also recommended and City Council yesterday approved the rezoning of Keystone Park and Rio Bosque to a Natural Open Space (NOS) District and that both Keystone and Rio Bosque be designated as a Wildlife Sanctuary under the Natural Open Space (NOS) District.

Finally, because we all need to learn more about different strategies for managing water without resorting to huge retention ponds and other practices of unsustainability, read Hopi Gardens, a long but very interesting article on passive water harvesting to grow food in an arid environment. Some of the Hopi terrace gardens are visible along AZ Hwy 264 between Hotevilla and Tuba City. Landscape Architect David Cristiani of the Quercus Group reports that the gardens are “impressive for their use of gravity and passive rainwater harvesting to grow corn and other food plant varieties that mostly produce from the monsoon season and incidental winter moisture totaling [like El Paso] about 6 or so inches a year.” Cristiani adds: “Their corn varieties were selected over time for toughness to the local environment. The corn is short in stature – under 3 feet in height.” Native Seeds is a good source for seeds for this variety of corn.