Big Bend Conservancy
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Public meetings set for Big Bend Ranch state park The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will hold public meetings Feb. 8 in Alpine and Feb. 15 in Houston to seek public comment about how Big Bend Ranch State Park should be accessed and used for recreational purposes in the future. Alpine's Thursday meeting will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Kokernot Lodge, 1101 North Loop Road just west of the Sul Ross University campus. The Houston meeting will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Judson Robinson Community Center at the corner of Hermann Drive and Almeda at the edge of Hermann Park. Public meetings on the plan already have been held in Marfa and Austin. A draft of the Public Use Plan calls for retaining two of the 12 existing campsites in the park's interior, 67 miles of trails, roads and river campgrounds, and access points. The initial phase of development would add 24 primitive campsites, 13 trailheads, 83 miles of trails and 44 miles of four-wheel drive roads that would make more of the park's interior accessible. At roughly 300,000 acres, Big Bend Ranch State Park, located just outside Presidio, is by far the largest in the Texas state park system, stretching from the Rio Grande well into the Chihuahuan Desert's numerous mountain ranges and canyon lands. Unlike Garner, Inks Lake and most state parks, Big Bend Ranch is minimally developed, offering visitors a rare opportunity to enjoy an uncrowded wilderness experience. Just how to expand park access without negatively impacting its fragile resources is what the public use plan will address, said Mike Hill, TPWD's West Texas regional state parks director. "Big Bend Ranch is both ecologically sensitive, and archeologically and geologically significant, with 134 free-flowing, fresh water sources and riparian areas that are home to unique plants and animal species," Hill said. "Therefore, careful planning for the expansion of public use is essential and candid public input is imperative." The public meetings are the continuation of a planning process TPWD began in 2004, but was put on hold by a variety of reasons, including a continuing budget squeeze that forced staffing cutbacks, Hill explained. The park's size is so huge, he said, that it has been divided into nine management zones for planning purposes, each of which is larger than almost any other state park. For more information, or to comment on the plan, visit the TPWD Web site public comment page, or call (512) 389-4661.
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