Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Eagle Mountain Lake will become a public park

Tomorrow morning, Sept. 13 at 10:00 a.m., Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell will hold a press conference at Eagle Mountain Lake. Chris will be joined by fellow candidates Steve Lerma, Danny Anderson and Sheila Ford. The candidates will be highlighting the crisis over Texas state parks, but they will also be celebrating a significant victory.

After years of controversy, and enormous public pressure, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the 400-acre property at Eagle Mountain Lake will be sold to the regional water district to be used as a public parkland.

The land, which is owned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, has remained fallow for more than 25 years. The state in recent years has considered selling it to developers, who hoped to establish a high-end residential subdivision here.

But in a tentative agreement that is expected to be announced Wednesday at a news conference in Fort Worth, the Tarrant County Regional Water District, Tarrant County, the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, TXU and possibly others will partner to purchase the land, according to officials.

The details of the deal have not yet been released and may not yet be finalized.

Exactly how the deal will be structured is still being worked out, said Vic Henderson, president of the Tarrant Regional Water District board. He confimed that money from the project will come from several sources. Others said that TXU would pitch in between $850,000 and $1.5 million.
As the campaign season has progressed, the issue of funding for state parks and the sell-off of some parklands has become a major issue in this fall's elections. Governor Perry has been accused of trying to negotiate a back-door agreement to develop the Eagle Mountain Lake property, and recently, a member of his campaign steering committee resigned after failing to receive assurances that the land would be preserved in its entirety.

This decision is a victory for all those who stood firm in demanding that our government not renege on a committment, made twenty-five years ago, to develop Tarrant County's only state park. That includes candidates and politicians on both sides of the political spectrum, non-profit groups like Save Eagle Mountain Lake Inc., and the entire staff of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, who have been relentless in beating the drum for support of the state parks generally, and Eagle Mountain Lake specifically. R.A. Dyer's series of articles highlighting the parks issue deserves special mention. And to the countless private citizens who voiced their outrage at rallies, in editorials and through phone calls and faxes to government officials - well done.

The Bell press conference is at 10:00 a.m. at the Creek Harbor Fish Camp, Eagle Mountain Lake, 12792 Morris Dido Road, in Fort Worth. Come out and show your support for some great candidates and celebrate this victory for our public lands.

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