Thursday, February 5, 2015

City of El Paso Now Threatens Keystone Heritage Wetlands

True to form, the City of El Paso intends to shred its Open Space Mater Plan and build a collection station next to Keystone Heritage/Wetlands Park. 

Here is what the Open Space Master Plan says about the park:

"Keystone Heritage Wetlands Park is a key cultural site as well as the remnant of a unique wetlands zone. Preservation of undeveloped lands around the park should be a high priority of the city in the near future." (page 5-32, emphases are mine.)

So, rather than preserving lands around the park, the City of El Paso, which is notorious for shelving Plan El Paso and ignoring the Tree Care Manual, now intends to put a collection station abutting Keystone contrary to its open space plan. Here's a slide show about the proposed nasty, dirty collection station:

There are 4 reasons why Keystone is an identifiable open space asset: it is a wetlands and wildlife habitat, it is an historical site and an archaeological site as well as an eco-tourist asset. The Open Space Master Plan mentions 3 of these: "key cultural site" (history and archaeology) and a "unique wetlands zone." 

In spite of the Open Space Manual mentioning these relevant features of the park, current OSAB Chairwoman, Katrina Martich (who likes to bang on the manual like a fundamentalist preacher bangs on a floppy Bible) claims that the archaeological features of the park are outside of the purview of the Open Space Board. Since being a cultural and a wetlands treasury make the park an identifiable open space asset, then both of these traits are relevant for preserving it as that open space asset just as the Manual prescribes: "Preservation of undeveloped lands around the park should be a high priority of the city . . ." [emphases mine] This is the purview of the Open Space Advisory Board.

From about 8,000 years ago to about a 1,000 years ago, humans have lived in and around the current park. It is hard to believe that those habitations now identified at Keystone obeyed modern El Paso street boundaries. One suspects more archaeological finds under the land where the city wants to put a collection site. The mere proximity should trigger the Antiquities Code of Texas.

Keystone is also a wetlands, the home of many bird species. On September 28, 2013 the Kevin von Finger Wetlands were dedicated.

Although not mentioned in the Master Plan, Keystone is a tourist destination which, of course, makes it a valuable asset for El Paso. Eco-tourism and heritage tourism have the potential of being a billion dollar industry in and for El Paso.

But what does the City of El Paso want to do? Build a collection station next to the park. Just the noise of such a place will disturb the bird habitats. And, the station, will probably cover-up key archaeological sites. It will also be a deterrent to tourist trade and the use of the Botanical Gardens at Keystone. But when has the City of El Paso cared about its treasures or even its written policies?

More on Keystone in the days ahead.

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