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Lawsuits over road access to the 'panhandle" of BBRSP

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Offline Roger, Roger

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Lawsuits over road access to the 'panhandle" of BBRSP
« on: November 02, 2007, 09:03:40 AM »
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Big Bend Ranch State Park access
Land owner, county, at odds
over public road proposal


By STERRY BUTCHER

PRESIDIO COUNTY – Cries of a faulty process have been raised by a Presidio County land owner who opposes the county’s effort to designate a road for public use.

The dispute started to simmer earlier this year, after county commissioners agreed to follow up on a Texas Parks and Wildlife request to designate four existing roads as county roads. Three of those roads lead into Big Bend Ranch State Park. A fourth goes to Chinati Mountain State Natural Area.

One of the roads to Big Bend Ranch State Park, called the Tinaja China, bisects the Presidio County property of John Boerschig, an attorney from Katy.

“Why tread on a man’s private property rights?” Alpine attorney Monty Kimball said on behalf of Boerschig. “My client’s opposed to the way this process has worked and the way it affects him.”

At more than 300,000 acres, Big Bend Ranch State Park is the state’s largest. Despite its unspoiled vistas, startling landscape, unique geological features and rich wildlife, visitor numbers to Big Bend Ranch aren’t high – just under 10,000 people roamed the park in 2006. An advisory council was put together to create a draft public use plan that studied, in part, how to boost visitorship. Access turned out to be a big issue.

“One of the things we had to contend with was limited access to the state’s largest park,” said Mike Hill, the regional director for Texas state parks. “It’s an underutilized park with world class resources.”

Right now, there’s one road in and out of the park. A sizable chunk of the park, called the panhandle, is not currently available to the public. A loop of existing roads, say park planners, would open access, bring in more visitors, and sink more tourist dollars into the county’s economy.

“It’ll open up the northern end of the park to more tourism,” said Presidio County Judge Jerry Agan. Agan is a member of the advisory committee that came up with the park’s draft public use plan. “We’re very interested in developing tourism.”

The road to the panhandle is the Tinaja China. It originates on Bunton Flat, in the pasture off Hwy. 67 where Cibolo Creek Ranch resort owner John Poindexter grazes his camels. The road is gated at its junction with Hwy. 67, but heads east, through the Cibolo Creek resort, through John Boerschig’s ranch, then through resort property again before leading into the state park’s territory.

It’s fallen to Presidio County Attorney Rod Ponton to guide the county through the road designation process. After commissioner approval, a letter was sent to various area land owners asking for signatures of support toward making the road public. Later in the summer, commissioners appointed a seven-member panel called a jury of view.

“They go look at the roads proposed to be opened by Big Bend Ranch and issue a report to commissioners regarding whether they recommend the roads be opened,” said Ponton. “And if they’re recommended to be opened, they can recommend and assess damages to be paid to a landowner.”

They’ll deliver those recommendations to commissioners at an as-yet unscheduled public meeting, said Ponton, perhaps within a few weeks.

Amid those mileposts in the road procedure, there’s been Boerschig, who heartily and vociferously protests the public designation. It’s not that Boerschig is against improving park access, said his lawyer – he just wants to use a different road.

“He’s not opposed to the concept,” explained Kimball. “He’d prefer they use other roads that would accomplish the same result. There are other processes and other roads.”

One alternate road suggested by the Boerschig camp starts in Shafter and evidently leads to the same area as Tinaja China. While it still crosses Boerschig’s property, “it won’t cut his ranch completely in two,” said Kimball.

If a tourism economy is sought, he went on, that’s an even better reason to site a Big Bend Ranch gateway at Shafter, where there is no retail business.

“There might be a convenience store there, a place to sell gas, to increase revenue of the county rather than cut through my client’s ranch,” said Kimball.

But that’s not the road Parks and Wildlife’s advisory board had asked for, said Ponton.

“The people in Shafter don’t want it,” Ponton continued. “It is much longer, goes over mountainous terrain and crosses creeks. [Parks and Wildlife] want a road that that campers can take a horse trailer into the panhandle, camp out, and go riding. You wouldn’t be able to do that on the Shafter road – it’d be expensive to construct and very expensive to maintain.”

The county already maintains a good deal of two of the proposed roads. Agan has stated that Cibolo Creek Ranch owner John Poindexter will maintain the portion of Tinaja China that runs through his land. According to the county officials, Parks and Wildlife will assist with the maintenance of the roads if and when they’re declared public.

Ponton thinks they may already be public. He’s produced early 20 century Army and geological survey maps that he says prove that Tinaja China was a public roadway. Texas law, he says, indicates that a road that had been public remains public unless commissioners declare it abandoned or closed. Even though Poindexter’s gate at Cibolo Creek has barred access by the general public for years, Ponton maintains it’s still a public road because the county never officially closed it.

Recently, he’s formed another legal point about Tinaja China. Many decades ago, the land that encompasses part of Big Bend Ranch, Cibolo Creek Ranch and the Boerschig property all used to be a single ranch under the ownership of J.A. Pool. The Tinaja China road existed at that time, linking the communities of Shafter and Casa Piedra.

Citing “implied easement by reservation,” Ponton explained that as tracts of Pool’s large ranch were eventually subdivided and sold off, the easement to that road and access to those properties were inherently included in the sale transactions.

“The law says there’s a dedicated easement across all those tracts to the benefit of each,” he said. “Today, Texas Parks and Wildlife has an easement to their panhandle because that section was originally part of the Pool Ranch and the road existed at that time.”

Ponton has delved deeply into Texas transportation law as a result of Boerschig’s protest. Kimball counters Ponton’s handling of the jury of view, saying “what’s perverted about the process is…instead of being landowner driven, it’s county driven. It looks like was a done deal a long time ago. Good neighbors in West Texas talk to each other.”

Boerschig is in a current legal lawsuit with his own neighbor, John Poindexter, over easement to the Tinaja China road. And there are other issues. Poindexter asked the county a year ago to take over the road and was declined. The resort owner has also twice pitched proposals to Parks and Wildlife to acquire the panhandle from the state.

If he does acquire it someday, asked Kimball, “then who does this road serve?”

The dispute has a decidedly testy tone. Boerschig’s attorneys have filed numerous open records requests from the county and Parks and Wildlife. He has reportedly threatened to sue the county, Parks and Wildlife, and Ponton, Agan and Hill personally. A few weeks ago, Presidio County residents found a full-color mailout from Boerschig in their post office boxes.

“Big city lawyers will also run up hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) in bills for litigation to go on for years in both Federal and State courts,” it reads in part. “The damages to ranch cattle operations, market values and hunting/wildlife will be significant,” it says.

A recent independent appraisal of the land resulted in a different opinion. From the August 28 appraisal by Austin, Huckabee and Associates is this: “There is no indication that the designation of the Tinaja China road as a county road would lower the market value of either of the two ranches on which the road is located.” Elsewhere in the document, the appraiser concludes, “The result of this analysis of ranch sales with public road access compared to ranch sales with private easement access in the market area indicates that there may be an increase in the market value of ranches with good public road access.”

The mailer also implied that the county was spending tax dollars on a single road rather than libraries, medical clinics or flood control.

“The flyer made no sense at all to me,” Judge Agan responded. He said the county has shown its commitment to water improvement, paving, and library projects.

“Over the last 10 years,” he said, “we’ve brought in about $13 million in grant monies.”

Aside from Boerschig, there have been some concerns about the public road expressed by other land owners. The petition letters asking for support lacked any information on what to do if the land owner opposed the road and the letters did not appear to have been mailed to every land owner in the area. The jury of view members are not necessarily ranch owners or experts in land use and value. Ponton has been criticized for characterizing that only Boerschig questioned the proposal.

“We have heard from about four land owners,” acknowledged Agan. “And they have some valid concerns down there.”

The roads that border and go into Big Bend Ranch are in rugged territory. They are unpaved, and often dip down into sandy washes and seasonal creeks. Amid the ocotillos and creosote, there’s no easily available water, no gas, no mechanic, and not many houses.

“There’s a history of people breaking down, running out of gas, and breaking into a ranch house,” said Hill, of Parks and Wildlife. “There’s no real good cell coverage.”

Hill has come up with stern wording for signs that would appear along the roads – no services are available, high clearance vehicles are advised, and the land on either side of the road is privately owned.

“Trespassers will be prosecuted,” he said.

Four additional park peace officers will be hired, according to Hill, and these rangers will patrol the park’s roads daily.

The advisory committee meets today at the ranch park. The draft public use plan will be finalized soon and will be sent to the Park’s commissioners for approval.

The upcoming jury of view meeting will also be open to anyone who wants to air concerns or ask questions.

If Boerschig finds the jury of view’s recommendations unsuitable, “we’ll go to the courthouse,” said Kimball. Should the road issue head to litigation, Ponton said the defense of the county would be taken over by the Attorney General’s office.

Although the advisory group’s goal is to increase visitor numbers, the park’s extreme isolation and deliberate lack of amenities draw tourists who seek a different experience than they might get at Big Bend National Park. Equestrian campers and backcountry enthusiasts are targeted, and the park is not expected to see visitors at the volume Big Bend National Park receives.

“We’re trying to create an experience that people want to come back to,” said Hill. “People need to understand that Big Bend Ranch State Park is an economic engine for Presidio County. It’s not on the way from anywhere – you have to want to be there, and they’re not going to come for one night. The money they spend in the community is valuable. The more we can do to make the ranch accessible to people and make people aware of the ranch, the better we’ll all be.”
« Last Edit: November 02, 2007, 09:14:10 AM by RichardM »

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SHANEA

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Re: Lawsuits over road access to the 'panhandle" of BBRSP
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2007, 09:17:58 AM »
Good article!  Thanks for posting!  Thanks...

Here is the URL to the article.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2007, 09:19:29 AM by SHANEA »

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Offline Vince T

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Re: Lawsuits over road access to the 'panhandle" of BBRSP
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2007, 09:58:26 AM »
Interesting.  Thanks for posting that.
Vince

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Offline rgibson

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Re: Lawsuits over road access to the 'panhandle" of BBRSP
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2007, 12:35:18 PM »
Poindexter was actually trying to help the  in the Great Panhandle Land Grab.  By helping to eliminate the many inholdings in the main part of the ranch.  Will really help if he is able to get the 21k acres from Lajitas as reported on an earlier post today.

The BBRSP has not had access for maybe 8 or 9 years since they were shut off from accessing this part of the park.  To do their annual inventory of the ranch in this area, they must ride mules in other ways.

The road was accessable b4, have driven it maybe a dozen times in the 90's.

Seems some college kids and their professor were on a field trip to this panhandle area of the ranch.

Upon leaving, they saw some endangered species on the side of the road on some land to get back to the main road, when the rancher, not Poindexter, stopped as they were taking pictures of these endagered species.  They were asked to leave and the rancher closed the road to the BBRSP.

The Chinati area has a different problem of access by the BBRSP.

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SHANEA

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Re: Lawsuits over road access to the 'panhandle" of BBRSP
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2007, 01:38:21 PM »

The Chinati area has a different problem of access by the BBRSP.

and the way it was explained to me, the Chinati area has a different problem for access in that the land owner with the adjacent property would allow access to it for the public, but forbids hunting.  TPWD of course generally allows special hunts on their park lands.  The person I was talking to indicated that TPWD really wanted to make Chinati a WMA which would have allowed seasonal hunting.   

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SHANEA

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Re: Lawsuits over road access to the 'panhandle" of BBRSP
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2007, 01:40:10 PM »
Will really help if he is able to get the 21k acres from Lajitas as reported on an earlier post today.

I must have missed that post  :eusa_doh:  and when I did an advanced search for Lajitas posted between 0-2 days the only "hit" I got was this thread...   :willynilly:

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Offline rgibson

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Re: Lawsuits over road access to the 'panhandle" of BBRSP
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2007, 03:08:56 PM »
oops, it was on Google Watch of Lajitas.

Among old info on todays Google Watch, there was entirely new info from John Waters' Big Bend Gazette Blog.  Sorry, don't know how to import BBG article.  (In a computer class, but we have not got to that part)  Don't know how I have made it for 9 years on computers.

Among other new info, it showed that John Poindexter had a bid for just the land portion of Lajitas that included 21,000 acres.  If part of the northwest corner of the 21k was somehow went to the BBRSP, it would allow access to Sauceda from the locked gate across from the Warnock Center. 

The road to Sauceda would follow the original and only road to Terlingua and was from Marfa, aka as the Terlingua Stage Coach road.

btw, the Texas Observer writer who filed freedom of information access to the Sept bids to the GLO bidding on the Christmas Mountains, said Poindexters bid, (2nd) was very well done and he felt if it went that way Poindexter would be the best choice for a private owner.  Still I would rather the  Christmas Mountains be in the BBNP.

Poindexter has agreed to, upon his death, donate all of his West Texas Holdings to a like-minded organization to continue conserving the land.

Still worried about someone from Washington changing the name to the Holiday Mountains.  Just joking, but could happen?


There was another bid for just the resort proper.

Regarding Chinati portion, there is alot more to the story about access.  Do not remember all the facts so it is better that I not comment 'til I check out or remember the details.

 
« Last Edit: November 02, 2007, 03:27:46 PM by rgibson »

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Offline presidio

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Re: Lawsuits over road access to the 'panhandle" of BBRSP
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2007, 03:13:06 PM »
Quote
Big Bend Ranch State Park access
Land owner, county, at odds
over public road proposal
One of the roads to Big Bend Ranch State Park, called the Tinaja China, bisects the Presidio County property of John Boerschig, an attorney from Katy.

While I can sure sympathize with not wanting a condemnation to occur, you just have to chuckle that it's a lawyer taking it in the shorts.

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Ponton thinks they may already be public. He’s produced early 20 century Army and geological survey maps that he says prove that Tinaja China was a public roadway. Texas law, he says, indicates that a road that had been public remains public unless commissioners declare it abandoned or closed. Even though Poindexter’s gate at Cibolo Creek has barred access by the general public for years, Ponton maintains it’s still a public road because the county never officially closed it.

But they were only too happy to not make an issue of the gating on behalf of the public for all those years.

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“The law says there’s a dedicated easement across all those tracts to the benefit of each,” he said. “Today, Texas Parks and Wildlife has an easement to their panhandle because that section was originally part of the Pool Ranch and the road existed at that time.”

So, if that's true, this is an open and shut case. Access exists and the lawyer is just stalling to see if the state/county will blink or negotiate.

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Boerschig is in a current legal lawsuit with his own neighbor, John Poindexter, over easement to the Tinaja China road.

Ah, those attorneys. They're not happy unless they are suing someone for something.

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Boerschig’s attorneys have filed numerous open records requests from the county and Parks and Wildlife. He has reportedly threatened to sue the county, Parks and Wildlife, and Ponton, Agan and Hill personally. A few weeks ago, Presidio County residents found a full-color mailout from Boerschig in their post office boxes.

“Big city lawyers will also run up hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) in bills for litigation to go on for years in both Federal and State courts,” it reads in part. “The damages to ranch cattle operations, market values and hunting/wildlife will be significant,” it says.

Classic 'scare and intimidate' tactics favored by the 'legal' profession.

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Four additional park peace officers will be hired, according to Hill, and these rangers will patrol the park’s roads daily.

I thought the parks were broke...now they're rolling in enough money to hire 4 people to patrol roads?
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<  presidio  >
_____________
Wendell (Garret Dillahunt): It's a mess, ain't it, sheriff?
Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones): If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here.
--No Country for Old Men (2007)

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Lawsuits over road access to the 'panhandle" of BBRSP
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2007, 03:26:59 PM »
Among old info on todays Google Watch, there was entirely new info from John Waters' Big Bend Gazette Blog.  Sorry, don't know how to import BBG article.
I do.  :cool:

A bidder who wished to remain anonymous confirmed the high bid for the resort itself was $13.5 million, and a $2+ million bid was made for the resort’s separate 21,000 acres.

In late October, John Poindexter of Houston, speaking to The Gazette by phone moments before takeoff on a Northwest Airlines flight from Minneapolis to Detroit, confirmed that he had bid $2.25 million for the resort’s raw land in the latest bidding. Poindexter did not bid on the resort itself.

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SHANEA

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Re: Lawsuits over road access to the 'panhandle" of BBRSP
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2007, 03:29:28 PM »
I thought the parks were broke...now they're rolling in enough money to hire 4 people to patrol roads?

I keep my eye on TPWD job postings, click here, and they have been on a hiring spree since Sept 1st.  Right now, there is only one FTE TPWD LE to patrol all of BBRSP. 

Of course, a lot will also depend on how the vote goes on Tuesday. 


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SHANEA

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Re: Lawsuits over road access to the 'panhandle" of BBRSP
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2007, 03:30:32 PM »
moments before takeoff on a Northwest Airlines flight from Minneapolis to Detroit,

Not a private jet?   :cool:

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SHANEA

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SHANEA

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Re: Lawsuits over road access to the 'panhandle" of BBRSP
« Reply #12 on: December 26, 2007, 06:18:25 PM »
So, what happens now?  Lajitas has been sold.  There is an injunction in place...

Poindexter park proposal hangs on Lajitas sale

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Offline partsguy

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Re: Lawsuits over road access to the 'panhandle" of BBRSP
« Reply #13 on: December 27, 2007, 10:25:35 AM »
 Isnt Sept 1st the beginning of the fiscal year? Thats when they always do the most hiring,if I am not mistaken.

 


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