Thursday, November 29, 2012

For the Sake of the Environment - Save the Stacks

Video courtesy of Capstone Productions

By now all of you have probably heard that City Council wants to preserve the stacks but not use any tax money or City indebtedness to do so. Read the Chris Roberts report

A few thoughts:

Tuesday revealed that Puga is not a straight-shooter. He claims that there are buyers for the land if there are no stacks. Of course, some investors may say that they are interested but that doesn't mean a contract. It's all speculation at this time.  In point of fact it will take several years to sell the land and that is plenty of time to work out financing which saves the stacks or do whatever. 

Puga claimed that the entire land had to be sold together. As he was questioned on Tuesday, that claim was modified. The point of the matter is that he has discretion to dispose of the property however he as Trustee sees fit.

I keep hearing that the TCEQ really wants to bring the stacks down. Why? Again, I smell a cover-up - the need for a perfect crime.

Many of my readers were adamant that the stacks be taken down either because they are an eyesore or from a motivation of getting rid of the contaminants. Although I share their motivation - all of us who love the environment are so motivated - I fear that bringing the stacks down won't save us and future generations from nasty contaminants, it will actually make it more likely that those contaminants will compromise the ground water and eventually make their way into the Americas Canal and the Rio Grande. 

There are some environmentalists (and I'm talking about trained biologists and geologists) who don't even want anyone walking over this land ever again. They won't agree with my suggestion that the stacks will be good for marketing potential commercial property and creating tourism. There's nasty stuff in those stacks. It has already been proven and admitted that chemicals used in warfare and radioactive wastes were burned there. HKN and Save the Stacks have demonstrated that the stacks are strong, straight and solid. Keep the poisons locked away rather than bringing them to the ground where, in time, they will contaminate our water supply.

Again the motive behind my reasoning is a love for the environment and the safety of humans and other living things. Unlike similar stacks that have been brought down around the country, the construction of the ASARCO stacks are totally different. Demolish and a malevolent jinn is out of the bottle. Our duty as stewards of the environment is to keep the beast locked up.

What is going to happen. The Byrd motion which passed when the Mayor joined 4 Council members to express the City's desire to keep the stacks will have some weight. What Puga needs to understand is that there are citizens who can find solutions and it will be good to work together. Now that we are talking about this issue in earnest, he may discover that many will realize that it will be much better environmentally to keep the strong, straight and solid stacks.

For the sake of our lives and health and the well-being of our environment I'm not going to leave this issue alone.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Save the Stacks!

There are several items of special interest on tomorrow’s City Council agenda. Let’s take them one by one.

Item 20D on the agenda could simply be called the Save the Stacks resolution. There are back-up documents including the resolution, a response from the Trustee, Robert Puga, a map, and a “review” of the HKN study which disputes the HKN findings that the stacks are “strong, straight and solid.” However, the HKN document itself is not provided with back-ups.  You can read the HKN report and executive summary on elpasonaturally.  I doubt seriously whether City Council members will read it by tomorrow as it is not part of the agenda back-up materials unless, of course, they read elpasonaturally.

Both the El Paso Inc. and the El Paso Times have done stories about the resolution and the City’s consideration of purchasing the stacks in order to save them. Those stories can be found here and here.  The obstacle seems to be Trustee Robert Puga’s insistence that the stacks be torn down come hell or high water. When citizens first were asked about the stacks, a majority voiced a desire to save them. Then it was announced that saving them would mean a $14Million price tag plus ongoing maintenance, liability, yada, yada, yada. The thrust of the HKN report is that saving the stacks will not mean a $14Million fix but only a $4Million fix. $10Million is the amount that Mr. Puga insists the City pay for the entire site since he hopes to prevent the City from buying just the stacks and the area around the stacks for a monument. It is this $10Million price tag that Puga now threatens the City Council with in an effort to carry out the plan to demolish the chimneys.  Some of the stacks supporters on the Council are willing to save the stacks but not buy the entire land. Frankly, I don’t know why City Attorneys can’t compel Puga to sell just the area with the stacks if he is going to continue to change the rules of the game.

The stacks are safe. They are historically significant. They are and can be objects of art. And they can be much more.

Imagine a commercial area with shops and restaurants. Call it “The Stacks”. Beckoning El Pasoans and eager tourists are two very tall chimneys artistically repainted. These chimneys become beacons of economic opportunity and development for the City of El Paso. They attract not just shoppers but millions of dollars of tax revenue for the City. What better marketing can you have then attractively decorated chimneys? Puga is wrong. Any developer or investor with any amount of imagination can see the value of keeping those stacks.  Historic smokestacks in Baltimore, San Antonio and Cleveland “have been converted into attractions that have generated revenue for their owners,” according to Robert Ardovino of Save the Stacks.

What happens if Puga and company drop the stacks? Two things: First, even though the stacks would be collapsed into a ditches created for them and dropped while huge water sprayers attempt to keep down most (but not all) of the dust, there is still the possibility of contamination now contained within the strong, solid and straight walls of the chimneys. Second, as elpasonaturally previously surmised, the “evidence” of more insidious contamination will be destroyed. Some future law suit which would benefit all not just the victims will be impossible, because the evidence of insidious contamination will have been destroyed – the crime scene compromised – the evidence now locked away in the chimneys forever gone.

Bottom line – Save the Stacks.  They are monuments now and can never be used again industrially – never.  Ask your City Council member to save the stacks and to read the HKN reports:

Ann Morgan Lilly:
Susie Byrd:
Emma Acosta:
Carl Robinson:
Dr. Michael Noe:
Eddie Holguin Jr.:
Steve Ortega:
Cortney Niland:
Mayor John Cook:

Item 18 asks Council to approve the same resolution already passed by the PSB to make the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park part of the PSB’s holdings. The plan means more water for the Bosque and millions of dollars of eco-tourist dollars for El Paso. Read the Chris Robert’s El Paso Times story.  Also read Water Prospects Brighten in this month’s Rio Bosque news.

An issue that probably won’t go away any time soon is considered in item 20E. The issue in short is this: Although the City owns the land (and it is part of the PSB inventory and part of the NE Master Plan), the mineral rights beneath a square mile of the land are owned by the General Land Office of the State of Texas. They have agreed to lease that land to Jobe to quarry. Jobe currently operates a quarry adjacent to and north of this land. The Chris Roberts story in the Times provides good summary and insight. See the Council’s back-up material on this agenda item. There is a significant archaeological site on the land which raises the concern that the Texas Historical Commission may still object. Jobe will have to remediate the land that has extensive archaeological materials – something which may take time and great expense. The lease impacts the NE Master Plan. Although asked how much revenue the City may lose, Ed Archuleta, so far has not responded. Another keen observer calculates that the 900 acres of land lost at $35Thousand an acre will be a loss of $31.5Million in  income. If $300Thousand can be recouped each year from royalties, it will take 100 years to make up the difference. Jobe is currently doing a survey to determine how much and what part of the land will be quarried.

Items 14A and 14B are simply an update on the NW Master Plan/petition process.  “We’re finalizing the survey, Low Impact Development, and Dover Kohl regulating plan,” Carlos Gallinar told me.  “The PSB is still finalizing the deal with Texas Parks and Wildlife but still needs an official survey,” he said.  Gallinar will ask Council for one more postponement and will get its final report to council in early 2013.

Finally, an estimated 200 people packed the Mecca Lounge at Ardovino’s Desert Crossing yesterday to celebrate and pay tribute to the life of Kevin Von Finger. See some pictures. Be sure you read the best online tribute to Kevin written by Kevin Bixby of the Southwest Environmental Center.

Strong, Straight and Solid - the Engineering Reports

An engineering study by HKN of El Paso has concluded in the words of Robert Ardovino that the ASARCO stacks are "strong, straight and solid." As historic icons, architectural wonders and potential canvasses for future El Paso Southwest art, the stacks could become beacons of economic opportunity and development in El Paso.

One thing for sure: they can never be used again to burn insidious or any other kind of waste. They are monuments now and not industrial machines.

Here are the HKN reports not included in the back-up material for City Council members as they consider tomorrow a resolution to save the stacks

Structural Analysis of ASARCO Stacks HKN ASARCO Stack Report Engineering Report Executive Summary about ASARCO Smoke Stacks

May the Desert Flourish Where Your Footsteps Walked

An estimated 200 people packed into the Mecca Lounge of Ardovino's Desert Crossing yesterday to pay tribute to Kevin Von Finger. El Paso Preservationist, Bernie Sargent (known for his love of six guns and shady ladies), created a video tribute and "emceed" the event. Kevin's brother, Mark Finger of Chicago, greeted and thanked people for coming. Eddie Holland, a band member of The San Patricios, mused that a drone strike would have wiped out much of of the El Paso region's environmental activists. Kevin Bixby's tribute to Kevin in the Southwest Environmental Center's news says why Kevin was such a conservation champion - sui generis really.

Here are pictures from the event courtesy of Fred Eiland:

Bernie Sargent sets up the video tribute.

Jennifer Barr Ardovino eulogizes Kevin.

 A toast to Kevin

Mark Finger, Kevin's brother - center, visits with John Walton, r, and Maggie and John Moses

 Henry Drake and Marina Ardovino

 Robert Ardovino, left, makes a point with Jamie Ackerman.

Visiting and remembering 

Ardovino's always has excellent, beautiful service.

And this tribute from Bernie Sargent:

Strong, Straight and Solid - So Save the Stacks!

People often ask how I became a proponent of stack preservation.

My history with these stacks started at a young age, with orange skies on the school playground and the taste of sulfur in my mouth.  Many of my friends from this time are no longer here to share their unfortunate stories of how ASARCO affected them.  Inexplicable illness and mortality runs common through the lives of both former smelter workers and the people it affected.  For this reason, I joined a group that helped close ASARCO down – a historic day.

The stack is not just part of my history, but El Paso’s history. The stack represents thousands of families who bettered their lives through hard work, realizing the American dream here on our border. The smelter’s contributions led to the growth and development of our community, including support for the establishment of the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy, later Texas Western College, and now UTEP.

"The stacks are, I think, an important cultural icon in El Paso" - Robert Puga, ASARCO Site Custodial Trustee

El Pasoans recognize the importance of this history.  In June, 2010, an El Paso Times poll put 58% in favor of smokestack preservation.  Trustee Robert Puga stated that the turn-of-the-century Powerhouse would be saved during remediation of the site. Mr. Puga also said, “The stacks are, I think, an important cultural icon in El Paso.” 

"The stack is strong, straight and solid."

Then Mr. Puga wrongly asserted that stack preservation would cost $14 million.  Public attitudes changed on this information - released without an actual stack inspection. Save The Stacks formed, commissioning a $50,000+ engineering analysis of the stack, confirming the stack is strong, straight and solid.  Moreover, the cost of stack maintenance over the next 50 years is now estimated at $3 million – $11 million less than asserted.  Most importantly, the citizens of El Paso – through local funding and local efforts - have met all the requirements Mr. Puga had dictated for stack preservation. 

We should look at our history, actual facts, and public opinion, and weigh all this against an outside interest – namely, the Trust led by Robert Puga – which has no background in El Paso, no interest in preserving our history, and no interest in saving our landmarks.  Even the historic Powerhouse is now slated for demolition. Why commit historic landmarks for demolition?  The Bottom Line.  The Trust thinks it will make more money by selling land free of buildings.  This is not local taxpayer money; it is money associated with ASARCO’s bankruptcy. 

"In other communities . . . historic smokestacks have been converted into attractions that generate revenue for their owners."

In other communities – such as San Antonio, Baltimore, and Cleveland - historic smokestacks have been converted into attractions that generate revenue for their owners. In El Paso, the decisions of outsiders cannot dictate our future.

In 2011, strong city leaders approved a comprehensive plan for a more vibrant El Paso - an El Paso with a vision that is Strong, Straight, and Solid. Recent elections reaffirmed its relevance.  Plan El Paso calls for “restoration and strategic repair of historic structures, which can serve as valuable tourism opportunities. Use these buildings and include new ones to create a rich cultural center for residents and visitors. Museums could potentially honor the History of Asarco and those who worked there, and the industrial heritage of The United States and Mexico.”

We have presented a concept of how this landmark is destined to be recognized as a Historic Monument, memorializing not only the former smelter workers but all the citizens of the region it has affected. 

The tallest monument in the United States is the St. Louis arch, at 630 feet.  The second is the San Jacinto Monument, at 570 feet.  Strong, Straight, and Solid, our monument stands 826 feet Tall!

"Let us keep our history, and not give up that right to one person who has no stake in our community." 

On Tuesday, please support City Council by asking them to stand up for our heritage. Let us keep our history, and not give up that right to one person who has no stake in our community.  We must stand strong, straight and solid in support of what is Our History, and demand that this Stack – our monument - remain.

by Robert Ardovino, leader of many environmental causes in El Paso and Sunland Park, and owner of Ardovino's Desert Crossing with his sister, Marina.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Support the Conservation Easement Incentive

Saving Land: Something We Can All Agree On

Dear Editor:

The Frontera Land Alliance had a recent workshop that discussed the tax incentives that landowners may benefit from if they place their land under a conservation agreement. When December 31st comes, those incentives might be gone if congress does not take action.

Unless Congress acts in the next few weeks, we will be left without something that benefits everyone in our community. Despite remarkable bipartisan support, we may lose an important tax incentive that helps protect clean water, natural areas and working family farms and ranches.  The incentive enhances the federal tax benefits for landowners of modest means who donate conservation easements.  These agreements help conserve natural resources important to west Texas while keeping land in productive private ownership.

The enhanced incentive has proven effective, helping land trusts across the country increase the pace of conservation by a third – to over a million acres per year. The Frontera Land Alliance joins America’s 1,700 land trusts and their five million supporters in calling on Congress to make this important conservation tool permanent this year.

We encourage our local Representative and Senators to find a way to extend the conservation easement incentive as part of any year-end tax deal. Thanks to thoughtful landowners and responsible action in Congress, we'll be able to conserve even more natural and working land in west Texas for years to come

Janae’ Reneaud Field
Executive Director 

To take action, visit the Land Trust Alliance now.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Chihuahuan Desert: Our North American Outback by Kevin von Finger

Here is an excellent little video written and produced by Kevin von Finger:

RIP Kevin von Finger

To say that El Paso's conservation and environmental community has lost one of its usual suspects would be a colossal understatement. Not just environmentalists but all El Pasoans lost a giant. The word went out by email and Facebook yesterday that Kevin von Finger had died. A neighbor and 911 respondents found Kevin dead in his home where he had lived alone. He was near one of his legendary and much-admired fish tanks.

His bio on the Frontera Land Alliance web site is short and sweet:

"Kevin von Finger is an ecologist and environmental consultant. He currently serves on the City of El Paso's Open Space Advisory Board, the El Paso County Eco-Tourism Committee, the Southwest Environmental Center Board of Directors, the Paso del Norte Watershed Concil Executive Committee, the International Boundary and Water Commission Rio Grande Citizens Forum Board, and the Keystone Heritage Park Board of Directors, where he also serves as the Habitat Committee Chairman and is actively involved in riparian restoration of the Keystone wetlands."

All of the above is not to mention that he was also, of course, on the Board of Directors for the Frontera Land Alliance.

Kevin was an ecologist. He held degrees from Knox College in Illinois and the University of Texas at El Paso. In 2003 he had retired as the Senior Ecologist for the Directorate of Environment at Fort Bliss after nearly 28 years of service. He became self-employed as an environmental consultant. He also authored a number of scientific papers. 

Wherever I went in the El Paso conservation community, there was Kevin. He frequently asked me how I find time to do all that I do. The fact of the matter is that few match or matched Kevin's activism. Kevin was not a complainer, not an arm-chair environmentalist. Kevin was a roll of your sleeves and solve problems scientist. He had a burly, manly kind of guy persona but a real softness when it came to just being a friend. He could talk business. He could also be personal and caring. Many who are active, take charge, get things done kind of people often miss the people in their worlds. Not Kevin. You mattered to him. 

I missed his last annual party. An arduous hike had made me home bound and couch bound that late afternoon. I figured that I wouldn't be missed. I was wrong. The next time Kevin saw me at an Open Space meeting, he said to me: "You missed a good one." 

I'm missing a great one now. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Melodies Under the Milky Way

Click on image to enlarge. 

The public is invited to “Melodies Under the Milky Way” for an evening of music in the mountains and a mini-program of presentations and activities about the sun, moon, and light pollution.  

Park Ranger Adrianna Weickhardt adds: "We are pleased to be hosting Travis Manning, a musician from Las Cruces, New Mexico, who will be providing musical entertainment including tunes from the classic rock era as well as some surprise 'astro-tunes'.  Hot cocoa and coffee will be available, as well as a few astronomically decadent treats such as Mars bars, Milky Way bars, and Starbursts.  We’ll have at least one telescope out to use after the program concludes to observe Jupiter and the crescent moon.  

This program is presented to you by your park rangers from Hueco Tanks SP&HS and Franklin Mountains SP, and astronomers from the El Paso and Las Cruces astronomy clubs.

After entering the Tom Mays Unit, drive all the way to the end of the park. (Map)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rio Bosque Has Water!

From John Sproul:

Just before 9 a.m. this morning, staff at the Roberto Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant switched the discharge of the plant’s effluent from the Riverside Canal to the Riverside Drain.  By 10 a.m., when my Introductory Tour group reached the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park inlet, water was just beginning to enter the park.  By 12:30 p.m., the water had advanced ~400 meters in the old river channel within the park, negotiating its way through piles of tumbleweeds deposited by yesterday’s windstorm. 

This is the first delivery of effluent to the park in 287 days

All of the Bustamante effluent is currently going to the Riverside Drain, and we are diverting as much as possible to the park.  A lot of the water is going to soak in initially, but some should start reaching the park’s wetland cells soon. 

Other Rio Bosque water news:

  • On Tuesday 13 November, the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission is scheduled to begin construction of the short diversion channel needed to deliver water from the planned turnout on the Riverside Canal to the old river channel in the park.  Once the diversion channel is complete, El Paso County Water Improvement District #1 will install the turnout. 

  • On Wednesday 14 November, the City of El Paso’s Public Service Board will meet, starting at 9 a.m.  Item 9 on its agenda (attached) is:

9. Consider and adopt a Joint Resolution between the City of El Paso and the El Paso Water Utilities – Public
Service Board concerning the transfer of the Rio Bosque Park from the City to the management and control of
the Public Service Board and the assignment of the License Agreement between the City and the University of
Texas at El Paso to the Public Service Board.

If adopted by both the PSB and the City Council, the joint resolution (attached) would place Rio Bosque in the PSB’s land inventory.  El Paso Water Utilities could then deliver some water from the Bustamante Plant to the park year-round as part of EPWU operations and without cost to UTEP.  The management direction for the park would not change.  Rio Bosque would continue to be a public park, and UTEP would continue to be the site manager. 

John Sproul
Manager, Rio Bosque Wetlands Park
Center for Environmental Resource Management
University of Texas at El Paso
500 West University Ave.
El Paso, TX  79968-0684
915-747-8663 office
915-861-4361 cell

Friday, November 9, 2012

Deal for Water Almost Complete on the Rio Bosque

Item #9 on the Wednesday, November 14th PSB agenda regards a simple transaction transferring Rio Bosque to the PSB and having the PSB assume the license with UTEP.  It will be drafted in the form of a Joint Resolution between the PSB and the City and has "obtained approval by the Asst. City Attorney and the Parks Director" according to Open Space Chairman Charlie Wakeem.  "This action will pave the way for reclaimed and/or treated effluent from the Bustamante Waste Water Plant to flow to the Rio Bosque in the very near future." Only City Council approval will be necessary after Monday evening assuming the PSB adopts the resolution. However, all signs point to adoption since helping the Bosque became a major issue at this year's strategic planning meeting as reported here at elpasonaturally in an earlier post.

The PSB/EPWU will continue an unchanged relationship with UTEP according to CEO Archuleta in an earlier email to me. "We have no intention of changing the relationship with UTEP and thus would maintain the license agreement as it," Ed Archuleta told me. "This is also the request from UTEP since I have spoken to Dr. Natalicio about this and also Dr. Schoephoerster. [Schoephoerster is the Dean of the College of Engineering at UTEP and a member of the PSB.] We would simply assume the license agreement."

In an email to Richard Teschner, Chairman of Senator Rodriguez's Environmental Advisory Committee, David Ornelas, the Wastewater System Division Manager for EPWU wrote: "The good news is that we are near an agreeement with the City and EPCWID#1 that will result in a water supply for the Rio Bosque that does not require a permit amendment. An announcement will be forthcoming."

John Balliew, EPWU VP, confirmed what Ornelas said: We [PSB/EPWU] have a verbal agreement with Joyce Wilson and a written agreement will be signed shortly. The irrigation district is in agreement."

In spite of a claim by Ornelas that water is already running to the Bosque "no water releases will be authorized until the City and the PSB approve the agreement," according to EPWU CEO, Ed Archuleta.  

However, it is no longer a matter of "if" but "when" the water will begin running.

There is more to this happy saga to report but I shall do so after the ink is dry  on the resolution and all the i's dotted so to speak. It is safe to say that Mr. Archuleta paved the way for this long-awaited solution through a meeting with the water district. That's a story to tell!

For now, those who have long cared about saving the Rio Bosque may want to attend next Wednesday, November 14th meeting of the PSB at 1154 Hawkins Blvd. The meeting begins at 9:00 a.m. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Conservation Workshop Tomorrow Morning

The Frontera Land Alliance, the El Paso area’s only non-profit 501 c (3) land trust organization, is hosting a Conservation Workshop beginning tomorrow, Friday, November 2 beginning at 8 a.m. at the downtown El Paso Doubletree Hotel, 600 N. El Paso Street, just south of I-10.  This is a great opportunity for advisors, landowners and anyone else interested in getting up-to-the-minute information on various ways to conserve land. Please join their guest speakers—several attorneys from Braun and Gresham, PLLC and Robertson/Smith Attorneys at Law—to hear all about the many conservation tools that are available.  More information online here and here.

Here are a couple of other events of importance:

City Representative Carl L. Robinson is hosting Ed Drusina, the Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) at his monthly breakfast meeting tomorrow, Friday, November 2nd, at the Denny’s Diner at 4690 Transmountain Road at 7:30 a.m.  The IBWC provides “binational solutions to issues that arise during the application of United States - Mexico treaties regarding boundary demarcation, national ownership of waters, sanitation, water quality, and flood control in the border region.” With the issues of drought, water scarcity and looming water “wars”, we should all become very familiar with the key players such as the IBWC and Mr. Drusina.

If you are a dog lover and you are looking for a furry hiking buddy, mark your calendar now for Happy Tails and Happy Trails on Saturday, November 3rd beginning at 9 a.m. at the Tom Mays Unit. I’ve posted the info for this on my neighborhood association blog. Be sure to click on the image to enlarge and read all of the information. We just have to find Lambert (and his buds) a home. This event is yet another great brain-child of Park Ranger Adrianna Weickhardt. Kudos, Adrianna!  Be sure to see the November schedule of events and hikes sponsored by the Franklin Mountains State Park.

Congratulations to the Borderland Mountain Bike Association for the completion of the Lost Dog Trailhead. I comment about it and the Palisades in a blog post.

Take note that the Sierra Club’s lawsuit against TxDOT over Transmountain has come to an end.

Finally, you read here or in the Times about Professor Phil and Kathy Goodell generously donating  a new Center of Entrepreneurial Geosciences at UTEP, a brainchild of Dr. Goodell.  Read the UTEP News story. It gives some fresh and interesting details.

Is There a Future for the Palisades Trailhead?

Click on image to enlarge.

This past Saturday, Lost Dog Trailhead (Redd Road Trail Head), was dedicated by the Borderland Mountain Bike Association. On hand were Martin Bartlett, representing the EPWU/PSB and Marci Tuck of the City's Parks and Recreation Department. Members of the West Texas Urban Forestry Council (Los Tree Amigos) presented a check from a grant that went to landscaping the trail head with Honey Mesquites.

BMBA officer and emcee for the dedication, Brent Sanders, shared the cost figures for the trailhead. The final cost of the project was $30,000. "The BMBA ponied up about $10,000 cash for permits, PSB fees to rent the land, fines (the City hit us with a whopping $600) and materials," according to Sanders. "The rest of the money came from donations of both materials and people's time." A big contributor was Jobe Materials that provided gravel and rock.

Now let's move to the Palisades - an uncompleted Open Space project because of an earlier failure to purchase enough land and the usual bureaucratic red tape - much of which is wrapped around the City's Engineering Department.

After the Palisades was purchased with Open Space money, plans for trail improvements including amenities were drawn by Huitt-Zollars and McGann and Associates. Here's one scenario:

Click on image to enlarge.

Here's another:
Click on image to enlarge.

There's a third scenario. It seems all 3 are now in the bowels of the City's Engineering Department - what is it - two, three years after the purchase and bids went out for designs. 

Unfortunately, the scenarios weren't ever vetted first by neighbors, hikers or mountain bikers. The failure to include neighbors in the planning led City Council Representative, Ann Lilly, not to specifically target bond funds for the Palisades entrance. The project still can be done with other bond money. The hope is that there will be more input first. Some neighbors fear that the improvements will only lead to more pedestrian and biking traffic behind their homes resulting in more noise and other nuisances. This picture shows the proximity of some homes to the main trail:

Click image to enlarge.

It was an easy walk from the backyard of the home in the picture to the trail. 

I'm sure that much of the concern can be addressed by educating hikers and mountain bikers about respecting the privacy due residences in the area. Signage showing where the Palisades open space ends and private property begins could also help although boulders mark the boundary in this location:

Click image to enlarge.

A simple sign can be created saying something such as "Please help keep the noise level down until the top (or bottom) of the hill and respect the privacy of neighboring homes. Thanks for your understanding and help." 

Simple improvements to the parking (which is now done on gravel at the bottom of the hill anyway) along with some signage and amenities can make this entrance to premier El Paso open space and, eventually, into the State Park very attractive. It's not just a matter of promoting natural open space and recreation but a way to show our civic pride. People will be good neighbors if asked.

Time to pick Zollars 1, 2 or 3 or follow BMBA's lead. It will be interesting at the November 7th OSAB meeting to see how Engineering has tweaked the plans - stalled them is more like it.