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Marfans want solitude in Chinati Mountains State Natural Area

March 16th, 2017 under Home Story Highlight » Top Stories
(staff photos by CAMERON DODD) Desert flora flourishes near the ruins of a structure at the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area.

(staff photos by CAMERON DODD)
Desert flora flourishes near the ruins of a structure at the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area.

Less is more

By CAMERON DODD

cameron@bigbendnow.com

MARFA — Minimal development and infrastructure seemed to be the consensus input from Marfa and area residents at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s first public meeting about the future of the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area.

State park planners unveiled initial concepts for development of Texas’ second largest piece of public land and received public comments at the Presidio County Courthouse on Tuesday evening. The majority of public input held to one theme: less is more.

The state parks department (TPWD) has been working to open the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area since acquiring the property in 1996. The public meeting in Marfa was the first in a series of hearings held as part of the parks department’s public use planning process. After presentations and public comment periods at meetings in Marfa, Presidio and Austin, the department will revise its plans for the park and come back for another round of meetings. TPWD park planner Justin Fleury, the lead developer on the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area, said the next round of meetings would happen in May.

About 40 people attended a public meeting in the Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa on Tuesday to hear plans from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area.

About 40 people attended a public meeting in the Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa on Tuesday to hear plans from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area.

On Tuesday evening in Marfa, Fleury presented four concepts for the park: Natural Area, Solitude, Neighborhoods, and Blend. The four concepts included some trails and campsites and sought to utilize existing infrastructure and features. Park planners have already identified a conservation priority area above the 4,200-foot elevation line, above which the environment is relatively untouched. There would be little to no development above this elevation, Fleury explained on Tuesday.

In its current iteration, the park plan includes proposals for “cabin-to-cabin” hiking routes that could span multiple days, existing structures functioning as bunkhouses and campsites adjacent to recreation halls. Each proposed concept had varying degrees of development, with Natural Area having the least amount of roads, trails and campsites and Neighborhoods having the most.

For the roughly 40 Marfa residents and area outdoor enthusiasts who attended Tuesday’s meeting, however, all the concepts seemed to be overdoing it with proposed paved roads, campsites and recreation halls.

“No one going to Chinati Mountains wants to run into other beings. That’s one of the nice things about it … I’d like you to envision perhaps doing as little as possible and allowing future generations the opportunity to plan more should that happen,” said one public commenter, who received a round of applause from the rest of the meeting attendees.

“All the plans are very over developed,” said another speaker. “When my wife and I go camping, we like to find the most remote road and find the end of it and stay there for three days without seeing single soul or hearing a single car.”

Park planners have previously heard comments about the desire for isolation and remoteness in the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area, Fleury said. Public comments will be considered along with the state’s goals from the natural area before revising and representing the public use plan in May.

The next TPWD public use plan meeting will be in Presidio this evening, Thursday, at 6:30pm at the Presidio Activity Center. For more information, contact Justin Fleury at Justin.fleury@tpwd.texas.gov.

 

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