Generally the Park Projects are Going Well
The County Commissioners received a progress report on the projects funded by what is known as the 2007 parks and open space bond. The Hays County Parks and Open Space Board had requested a summary progress report be prepared to ensure that monies were being spent as promised and the intent for each project fulfilled. The news is good. Nearly every project is tracking along as planned. This does not mean that you will see something on the ground in each case. Some projects, like phase two of Five Mile Dam, require planning and the right weather conditions- along with some contractor coaxing. Meanwhile the sports complex of the North Hays Optimist Foundation is near completion with excellent work by volunteers and donors.
The commissioners were concerned about what appeared to be a delay in the Kyle Northeast Regional Park project, which will require the city to go to its voters to raise the matching portion. The economy and other factors may slow the process but everyone is still confident the project, which will eventually be more than $50 million, will be built. Hays county will have contributed around $2.5 million. If you would like a copy of the summary sheets for each project contact Jeff Hauff, the county grants administrator, [email protected].
Call for Habitat, Water Quality and Water Access…and a Shooting Complex?
Meanwhile the call for proposals to disburse the remaining funds is about to go public. At a workshop in commissioners court on September 15th the court tweaked the evaluation criteria for the open space/conservation projects and decided to postpone finalizing the recreation projects criteria. Conservation lands will need to have 600+ acres of endangered species habitat and, as demanded by the citizens, serve to protect water quality. Water access has repeatedly floated to the top of any survey as a high priority for county residents, so points will be given for that as well.
A surprise to many who have been working on conservation land issues was the insistence by Commissioner Conley that points be given for property that could also accommodate a shooting sports complex. While most parks board members were aware of the interest in having a shooting sports complex, most were not thinking that the already difficult standard set for possible conservation properties would also have to include approximately 300 acres for a specific form of recreation.
Members of the audience noted that the master plan and surveys do not support such a complex nor did any of the directives to the board leading up to the creation of the draft criteria. It should be noted that the tennis community, mountain bikers, disc golfers and a few other recreational interests would likely feel slighted as they have been trying to get traction for much longer than the gun sports enthusiasts.
The court asked an ad hoc committee to prepare a call for projects cover letter that mentions the shooting complex as a possible use.
While there are a number of problems with proposing a shooting complex in conjunction with habitat, water quality and water access lands, there is nothing that necessarily makes them unable to coexist if a property is large enough and has the proper topographic conditions. Still it’s difficult to imagine getting past all the added hurdles a shooting complex adds to the process. As Dianne Wassenich notes, approval of habitat by US Fish and Wildlife Service is tough enough, now we may have to contend with other groups including neighbors who could organize late in the process to brew controversy.
What are some of the long term effects of a shooting range on conservation land? Are legacy sellers (donors?) of their land more or less likely to step forward knowing their property could contain a shooting complex?
SMGA president Todd Derkacz happened to be the only Hays board member at the court so he was drafted to draft the letter of request for proposals as part of the ad hoc committee. The group will include Stephen Marlow from the shooters group, Jeff Hauf and a few others. Commissioner Conley in particular wants the shooting complex option mentioned explicitly as a possible use even though it is subordinate to habitat and water priorities.
The “shootplex” advocates have a piece of property identified but have yet to garner neighbor support.