by Laurence Gibson
On the heels of the city’s recent $3.5 million open space purchase of 366 acres in Northeast El Paso, the old conversation about selling PSB land has been reignited in the form of a new report from El Paso Water’s Public Servce Board Preservation and Conservation Planning Committee. This is a comprehensive 66 page document which may be seen online at Preservation Committee Report.
Your El Paso Group has been active in the PSB land sale story for almost 20 years now. See these headlines from previous Loraxes:
April ‘01: Resist the Proposed PSB Land Sale
May ‘01: PSB Land Sale Update There’s Still Hope
June ‘05: Open Space Tempts El Paso Developers
Those were Mayor Raymond Caballero days when we counted on his mayoral presence at PSB to temper the developers’ requests to sell chunks of our open space under the “good ‘ol boy” system. The land sales guy at PSB was on a first name basis with El Paso developers who were able to say “I want you to sell me this (or that) parcel”of open space.
If you are new to El Paso you may not realize that our water utility purchased thousands of acres around El Paso in the 1900’s. This was to protect our aquifer from being paved over. Even back then there was a realization that we needed to have that land for recharging the aquifer!
With the adoption of our prizewinning Northwest and Northeast Master Plans we breathed a sigh of relief, naively thinking our open space was safe. Now, we seem to have forgotten the wisdom of our elders in setting aside all that land for water.
The consensus from environmentalists at the March 21st PSB meeting is that the committee report contradicts itself by recommending the open space be protected, THEN saying to develop half of it! That would be 3,500 of the approximately 7,000 acres we own around our mountains. The PSB has not yet taken action on that recommendation.
Photo Credit – Franklin Mountains, courtesy Ken Steiner
As a member of the Americas High School Student-Sierra Coalition, I have been delighted by the opportunity of participating in a multitude of environment-driven hikes in which we learn about the protection of the biome and the about the intricacy of the natural world. Moreover, our passionate organization has also been involved in local community service projects such as the construction of a wheelchair accessible trail within the Franklin Mountains State Park. One of the main goals of the Student Sierra-Coalition is to cultivate appreciation for nature and to make it accessible for everyone. Our main club sponsor, Ms. Hardin, has opened the possibility of sharing multiple outdoor experiences with members of the national park service, college science majors, and field experts, such as a paleontologist.
On January 2018, we were able to attend the Prehistoric Trackways National monument located near Las Cruces, NM.; we were given the rare honor of sharing the hike with a paleontologist who had as much passion and admiration for nature as the members of our group. From the rugged landscape of the Franklin Mountains to the developing wetlands of Rio Bosque, no previous hiking endeavors have deeply captured my interests. Although, nothing but positive memories have come from the outings provided by the Sierra Student Coalition, none have captivated my child-like innocence than laying my eyes upon the remnants of prehistoric organisms. From the bombardment of dates and eras of the geologic time scale, to the geology centered lectures, and finally to the main event being the impressions of beings which went extinct 250 million years ago. Observing the fossilized remains of these ancient creatures inspired my younger, and many others, growing minds alike. However, seeing this other portion of paleontology, being able to walk along similar paths as Dimetrodons, and learning about the possible behaviors of these organisms was an awe-inspiring experience of which I hope for more in the coming months.
-Lorenzo Gonzalez and Carlos Chavez members of the Americas High Sierra Student Coalition in El Paso, TX