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New Chinati Mountains park plan scales down development

June 1st, 2017 under Top Stories
(Diagram courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Depaerment) The latest draft plan for the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area, featuring fewer campsites, multi-use trails, and general development than previous concepts for the natural area.

(Diagram courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Depaerment)
The latest draft plan for the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area, featuring fewer campsites, multi-use trails, and general development than previous concepts for the natural area.

By CAMERON DODD

PRESIDIO — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department released the current draft park use plan for its forthcoming Chinati Mountains State Natural Area last week. The draft has fewer campsites, multi-use trails, and general development than previous concepts for the natural area.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) park planners unveiled the updated concept for the 39,000-acre, or 62-section, south Presidio County property intended for the state natural area at two public meetings in Presidio and Marfa last week. This is the second round of public meetings TPWD has hosted to offer interested area residents an opportunity to comment on the proposed park plans.

The property intended for the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area was formerly part of the Mesquite Ranch. The property was donated to the state park system in the mid-1990s but has not been open for public access. Several cabins, mining trails and stone stock tanks constructed by previous owners still exist, but infrastructure on the land is otherwise only lightly developed.

TPWD previously hosted public input meetings on the Chinati Mountain State Natural Area in Marfa, Presidio and Austin in March this year. Park planners presented four concepts of various levels of development. The four concepts ranged in number and density of campsites, multi-use trails and communal-use recreation halls.

The overwhelming response from the public at the Marfa and Presidio meetings was to keep infrastructure development at the natural area minimal.

The current draft plan features just one concept. The natural area would have 26 drive-in campsites in three areas: “Arroyo,” three miles from the area’s entrance and near the cienega arroyo; “Cienega,” just south of the Baviza cienega wetlands; and “Solitude,” near the backcountry. There would also be 18 hike-in campsites around the Sierra Parda and the San Antonio Canyon and three cabins available for group reservations. The plan also has 32 miles of hiking only trails and 24 miles of multi-use trails.

(staff photo by CAMERON DODD) A large stone cabin sits in San Antonio Canyon in the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area.

(staff photo by CAMERON DODD)
A large stone cabin sits in San Antonio Canyon in the Chinati Mountains State Natural Area.

As a state natural area, any plans for the Chinati Mountains abide by state regulations on the number of vehicles in the area at one time, limiting the amount of artificial light and restricting campsites to primitive conditions without water or electricity.

The current plan is scaled back compared to the first round of concepts and incorporates feedback from public comments, according to TPWD park supervisor Nate Gold.

“The natural area is very much preserved and visitors will get a true wilderness and natural area experience,” Gold said in an email.

The park plan still offers visitors the opportunity to do multi-day, campsite-to-campsite backpacking trips as well as miles of mountainous backcountry hiking. The trail system also offers hikers access to some of the natural areas water features as well as existing cabins and historic structures and ruins left from the areas previous life as a mining area and working ranch.

TPWD does not currently have a timeline for when the natural area will be open for guided visits or to the general public. The department will host another public meeting in Austin on June 1 and will accept public comments until the end of June. Afterwards there will be another revision and a digital public comment period before a final plan is released in October of 2017, according to Park Planner Justin Fleury.

For more information or to comment on the current draft of the natural area plan, contact Park Planner Justin Fleury at justin.fleury@tpwd.texas.gov or Park Supervisor Nathanael Gold at Nathanael.Gold@tpwd.texas.gov.

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