Thursday, June 26, 2014

Save Cement Lake

El Paso's best kept secret - a natural lake just north of Executive Blvd. not far from Sunland Park
The best kept secret in El Paso is (Portland) Cement Lake. Probably the vast majority of El Pasoans don't know about this treasure as they speed along I-10 just north of Executive Blvd. It was one of the top priorities for acquisition in the City's Open Space Master Plan (p. 5-44). About the lake that Plan states, "the existing lake is fed by area springs, and maintains an unusual wetlands ecosystem that is physically separated from the Rio Grande. The pond and surrounding vegetation is visible from I-10 and is the one green area in an otherwise heavily industrialized area."

The Franklins in the background

Fed by area springs from the Franklins?! Amazing. Definitely should be preserved. 

from Land Arts of the American West

Unusual wetlands ecosystem?! Amazing. Definitely should be preserved. 

Did the City acquire it from its previous owner Cemex? Nope. Who did? You had better sit down. TxDOT did! 

TxDOT did so along with plenty more acreage in an area where yet more interchanges will go along with what land is leftover that they hope to develop. It is rumored that they purchased the land for $35,000 an acre. That makes the 50 acres of Cement Lake worth $1.75 Million.  Of course preserving the wetlands would require land for connectivity and a buffer zone. 

Is there money in the Open Space budget to procure the land? Maybe not for there may already be recommended commitments by the increasingly non-transparent and secretive OSAB to purchase three other properties - all of which together do not even approach the value of a natural, spring-fed lake with an unusual wetlands ecosystem.

Click to enlarge. Preserve the lake? Preserve the arroyos?

Reportedly, TxDOT would like to Master Plan the area. (Perhaps be advised by Plan El Paso pp. 1.21, 4.3, 4.60, 4.61?) District Engineer Robert Bielek has let it be known that, to get the ball rolling on a Master Plan, an official letter from the City or PSB (or even a Council member?) is all that it would take. elpasonaturally knows that the Mayor and EPWU's John Balliew are in discussion. But a letter?

One of the principal reasons for all the blood-letting at Lincoln Center was the failure to have a comprehensive discussion with all the stakeholders early on. (Too many plans that had to be kept behind a few closed doors.) In the case of Cement Lake, Bielek and TxDOT are letting it be known that they want to talk and plan ahead.

Noting that "green" is the bottom item of TxDOT's priorities (just below history and heritage and way below public art doodads on overpasses), the question is this: Will conservationists, wildlife officials, open space advocates and so forth be part of this discussion? Part of the team to preserve the natural lake as part of a Master Plan? As of right now, the doors are closed. The lips are sealed. The Open Records Requests are being drafted.

But consider, the Cement Lake Wetlands preserved would make a peaceful place to visit from the historic Barrio Buena Vista, Executive Blvd., Monticillo on the Ridge, anywhere in El Paso and the surrounding region - a green getaway for meditative peace and wildlife study not to mention ecotourism - much like Keystone Park

But will El Paso have the vision?

See also:

Basecamp El Paso's Wild swimming in the Portland Cement Reservoir

El Paso's Hidden Lake

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Carbon Dioxide Tax IS the Most Conservative Thing to Do

My new hero, Henry Paulson: Goldman Sachs Chairman, George W. Bush Treasury Secretary, Republican, Climate-Change Warrior
Do you support fiscally conservative risk management? Do you support less big government and more local control? Then, you should be for a carbon dioxide tax in response to the overwhelming evidence of a coming climate "crash". All of this according to Henry M. Paulson Jr., former Goldman Sachs Chairman and former Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush when the credit bubble burst in 2008. 

READ (and I mean READ) his jaw-dropping, game-changing op-ed piece published in the NY Times yesterday. READ it word for word. It makes HUGE sense.

HERE it is.

Input on New City Facilities Sought


The City of El Paso has scheduled additional opportunities for members of the community to offer input regarding the signature projects of the 2012 Quality of Life Bond program.

City staff will host the following two community meetings at which input will be received regarding possible facility sites, site uses, and amenities for the Children’s Museum, Hispanic Cultural Center and Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Facility:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
El Paso International Airport
La Placita Conference Room “A”
6701 Convair Road MAP
Parking in short-term lot will be validated

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
EPPD Mission Valley Regional Command
Community Room
9011 Escobar Drive MAP
Free parking available

Why Conserve Arroyos or Any Land at All?

The following is an op-ed piece that first appeared in the El Paso Inc. It is by Janae' Reneaud Field, the executive director of the Frontera Land Alliance.

Why Conserve Arroyos or Any Land at All?

Do you sometimes wonder why The Frontera Land Alliance spending so much time restoring Resler Canyon? It’s simple: Resler is a very visible open space—seen by thousands every day—that clearly demonstrates how a natural arroyo functions. Also it allows Frontera to show how an area such as this can be managed at a low cost with a positive impact on the community. What better way to educate the general public, elected officials, and government employees on how to manage open space properties in their natural state?  

Natural areas can create opportunities for our local economy by promoting investment in working ranches and farms as well as land for outdoor recreation. Such investments have a ripple effect. For example, investment in a nature-based park can create more jobs and lead to more visitor spending. With their growing international reputation as tourist destinations for nature and adventure, our mountains can bring more outside dollars to the area. “In 2006, Hueco Tanks brought in $582,207 in county sales [and] $331,774 in county residents’ personal income. In 2007, Hueco Tanks and the Franklin Mountains State Park brought 72,644 visitors to El Paso County.” (Texas State Park, Natural Economic Assets) The Backpacker Magazine states that “Natural open space improves mental and physical health. Researchers hypothesize that exposure to the natural outdoors causes significant, measurable changes to the brain. These changes lead to clearer thinking, greater ability to focus and maximum cognitive ability. In short: enjoying nature makes you smarter. Recent studies have already linked spending time in nature with stress reduction and overall happiness.” Imagine having a natural open space near your office to take a break and walk for a few minutes before getting back to work. How much more productive and friendly we would be! Finally it’s been proven that “Outdoor education provides students with an opportunity to connect with nature, learn hands-on science, achieve personal growth, and develop a commitment to environmental stewardship and community service. We believe outdoor education provides a better future for our students, our communities and our world.” (Outdoor Education Foundation) 

Having natural areas benefits the local economy, creates new business and lowers infrastructure costs long-term. And just by being outside in nature or at a ranch or a farm, you improve your mental and physical health.  

Frontera, the only 501 (C) 3 non-profit local land trust, is working hard to create and maintain a high quality of life for the community through the management of open natural areas that provide wildlife habitat, water recharge and peace of mind.  To learn more contact Frontera Land Alliance at or 915-351-8352.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Friday Video Today: Coping with the Cascading Crises of Our World

I'm going to be out of pocket for the next 5 days while I entertain a friend from New York City, the CFO of Playbill. So, I'm doing the Friday video today. A big thanks and a hat tip to Marshall Carter-Tripp for leading me to this presentation that talks about sustainability and social justice - the two major themes of elpasonaturally.

Robert Jensen's talk is an encomium to his friend, Jim Koplin. You can read a shorter version of it under the title of After the harvest - learning to leave the planet gracefully. The tribute can be found on Waging Non-Violence and two sites to bookmark and visit regularly.

I usually select short videos. This runs for an hour and twenty-one minutes. Sit back. Stream it to your television. Watch it at the end of the day on your tablet. You will appreciate the time invested.

Some of you get these posts via email. Embedded videos do not show up on many cell phone platforms or email programs. Go HERE to see the video.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Non-Progressives Prefer Suburban Sprawl

elpasonaturally readers, please read: Pew Poll: More Americans Are Political Purists | KSMU.

Let me point out one paragraph in particular:

"Blue house, red house: Cities have long been liberal bastions while suburbs and rural areas have been more conservative. Pew asked a question that got at that dynamic in a fascinating way. It asked those surveyed whether they would rather live in a community with larger houses that are farther apart and driving is essential to get practically anywhere or would prefer smaller houses that were closer with stores and schools within walking distance. Seventy-five percent of those whose survey answers identified them as consistent conservatives said they preferred the large house, car-dependent community. By contrast, 77 percent of consistent liberals liked the more urban scenario."

My assumption is (and I'll bet mucho that I'm correct) the builders, the sprawlers, their lackeys on City Council, etc. are all what I call "non-progressives" - the "conservatives" in the Frank James NPR report. 

The Pew Poll may explain why we conservationists find it so hard to find common ground or compromise with El Pasoans who are bent on sprawl, concrete, more and bigger freeways, no transportation policy that considers bicycling and walking, and no smart code/smart growth/green infrastructure-low impact development.

In 2011 after a successful petition drive, we compromised and came up with a pretty good win-win solution and a new NW Master Plan. As recently as this year, an attempt was made to ditch smart code as developers such as Doug Schwartz want a piece of the action in the NW. (Keep in mind that Schwartz, Rubin - aka "demolish historic buildings downtown" Rubin - were major players along with Mayor Leeser in the selection of the new City Manager - a selection process that we know now was tainted. Read also the El Paso Inc. article.)

Again, I'm assuming that most builders and developers in El Paso are non-progressives. They argue that everyone wants a house with a yard on the outskirts of the City. If those they market to understood that the homes that they are buying are not the most energy-efficient and that they will spend most of their disposable income driving to work or the store, they probably might prefer other alternatives. Unfortunately the non-progressives believe that people want the larger footprint for a home. I know. I've heard them to a person tell me so.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Friday Video: Single Stream Recycling - Leading the Way to Zero Waste

Below is a video production by the Boulder County (Colorado) on their single stream recycling (which includes glass) as they move toward zero waste. You can read more about the video in the "about" section of the video.  Visit the eco-cycle web site and surf, surf, surf. Bookmark and read their blog. Also visit the Boulder Colorado environment site. Again - surf, surf, surf. 

See too their page on sustainability. They have a great definition for sustainability: 

"Sustainability means “The use, development and protection of resources in a way that enables Boulder County residents to meet their needs and maintain a high quality of life, without compromising the ability of future residents to do the same.” Boulder County values balancing a strong economy, protection of the environment and social equity."

Here's the video. Discussion about glass recycling being at about 10:45 minutes. That's right. They successfully recycle glass:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Recycle Glass El Paso!

Want sustainable building? How about a scenario where 501,600 beer bottles are kept out of the landfill and instead used to pave a 5,700 square foot lot? Here's the story (you may have to answer a survey question to read the entire article):

High-tech parking lot helps museum ‘go green’

Not only can El Paso preserve more of its precious mountains because less limestone will be mined for concrete and asphalt mix, but the demand on our landfills will be decreased as well as often destructive stormwater run-off.

It's time for El Paso to recycle glass.

Pourous paving makes sense. Check out this commercial site.

More to come on elpasonaturally.

El Paso lags far behind peer cities for biking and walking

Click on image to enlarge.

Here's a press release from Ben Foster of VeloPaso:

Nationwide study on biking and walking shows El Paso lags far behind peer cities 

El Paso ranked among deadliest city for bicyclists and pedestrians, lowest levels of biking and walking, least amount of bicycle infrastructure

"El Paso ranks among the highest in bicycle-pedestrian fatality rates, lowest in bicycling and walking levels, and dead last in bicycle infrastructure per square mile, according to the latest benchmark report on Bicycle and Walking in the United States which collects and analyzes data on the country's 51 largest cities. (See attached excerpts from report.)

“El Paso's leading in all the wrong indicators,” said Victor Cordero, vice president of the Velo Paso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition. “Behind these numbers we find a mom who can’t bike down the street with her family or let her kids walk to school without feeling like she’s endangering their lives. It's unacceptable and entirely preventable."

The report is published by the Alliance for Biking and Walking, a nonprofit based in Washington DC that initiated the Benchmarking Report Project, in 2003, in order to improve access to biking and walking data. The benchmark report analyzed uniform national data sources from public agencies and organizations, as well as state and local surveys, collected in 2011 and 2012.

As data collection methods become standardized and more refined, the benchmark report is able to show how biking and walking impacts a whole host of factors previously too difficult to measure.

Health: Lower levels of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity were found in cities with higher shares of commuters who bike or walk to work.

Safety: Lower bicycle-pedestrian fatality rates were found in cities with higher shares of commuters who bike or walk to work.

Economy: Increased sales for businesses, higher commercial and residential property values and lower vacancies were found in locations with enhanced walking and biking facilities.

Bicycle and pedestrian advocates see this as a sobering wake up call and an opportunity for El Paso to make great strides in a short amount of time.

“I expect to see a reversal in these trends through the Bike Advisory Committee and renewed efforts by private and public leaders to address these urgent problems,” said Scott White, Velo Paso’s policy director and member of the City of El Paso's Bike Advisory Committee. “Doing nothing is no longer an option because we can see that the old way of building roads, streets, and development led us to a dead end. A bikeable and walkable El Paso is good for our economy and good for the general health of our community.”

The first step, according to advocates, is to implement the recommendations developed by the League of American Bicyclists during their on-site assessment in February 2014. The recommendations range from “connecting a network of bike lanes and bike boulevards with sharrows and appropriate signage until protected bike lanes can substitute” to “reduce speeding through street design, public information campaigns & enforcement especially near schools and commercial districts.”

The next step is to attend TxDOT’s Texas Transportation Plan 2040 open house at the El Paso Multi-Purpose Center Ballet Room 9031 Viscount, El Paso, TX 79925, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

Advocates call on TxDOT and El Paso DOT to move away from building capacity strictly for cars to prioritizing safety and accessibility by building roads for all modes of transportation.

See the full report here:"

Note where El Paso ranks with bicycle infrastructure:

Click on image to enlarge.

Of the 52 largest U.S. cities, El Paso is 44th in commuter bicycling and walking but in the top 10 (number 8) for highest pedestrian/bicyclist fatality rates. When it comes to people getting recommended physical activity, El Paso has no current data in spite of setting a goal of reducing obesity and diabetes - a goal it must be said that was mere window dressing.

As you DRIVE around El Paso (perhaps enjoying some of those hardscape eye-candy features brought to you by TxDOT), how often have you seen any of this specialized infrastructure?

Click on image to enlarge.

El Paso puts cars before people

The City of El Paso will spend $8.8 Million to "beautify" overpasses and pillars near downtown. TxDOT will do the work. This is according to a report filed by Denise Olivas of KVIA: Latest freeway beautification project to focus on downtown. In other words there will be more eye candy. But will there be better transportation?

In other words, El Paso will put cars before people. 

"Nationwide study on biking and walking shows El Paso lags far behind peer cities. El Pas has among the highest bicycle-pedestrian fatality rates, lowest biking and walking levels, dead last in bicycle infrastructure per square mile."

Where are our priorities?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Friday Video on Monday: Downtown Fort Worth - Sundance Square

First, here is Jerry Rubin's and River Oaks' vision for downtown El Paso:

"'Demolition of a building at San Antonio and Mesa in Downtown is underway. It's one of five buildings River Oaks Properties is demolishing on a Downtown block for possible future development. Preservationists had tried to get the city to stop the demolitions because they said the buildings are historically important for El Paso.' ( Rudy Gutierrez—El Paso Times)"

Here's another:

Oops - sorry that was the aftermath of a demolition fire at the historic First National Bank Building - a property owned by River Oaks.

See KVIA's raw video footage of the demolition of a building on San Antonio. That demolition violated construction rules. The demolition company working for River Oaks will be slapped with a (don't fall out of your seats now) whopping $1700 fine. (Chump change.)

You be the judge. Here's a ahhh lovely River Oaks development, another strip mall, the El Dorado Plaza:

Here's the Trost's John Muir Building, an architectural gem not a tacky strip mall (now demolished):

With some work the John Muir building could have been restored just as the Mulligan/Luther building now has been for the City of El Paso:

Now (finally) watch the video and imagine what could be if love for community, civic duty and pride for our heritage win out over greed:

And do visit This is what can be in El Paso. We deserve it. Not this, River Oaks.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014

El Paso's First Bike Valet

Velo Paso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition cleared quite a few hurdles and ignored naysayers in order to bring this unique service to El Paso Chihuahua fans. Thanks to the El Paso Scottish Rite and Race El Paso, Velo Paso was able to provide safe, convenient and clean bike parking for a major city event. 

Velo Paso volunteers parked 50 bikes and 1 baby stroller. Pedestrians huddled under the valet tent when it rained during the 6th inning of the ballgame. A mother who brought her daughter in a bobcat trailer was relieved and grateful when she saw that valet attendants had covered her trailer with a tarp. 

The number one question of the night was: "When and where is the next bike valet?"

Through continued free bike valets, Velo Paso intends to explore the possibility of a city ordinance that would make protected bike parking mandatory for large events like Music Under the Stars and Neon Desert.

As we found last Thursday night, you can pack quite a few bikes into one parking spot, nearly 12 bikes to 1 parking space. That means more people at your event, less congestion on the road, and more parking spaces for seniors and people with disabilities who may be unable to bike. - contributed by Ben Foster

See first post: