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TPW Commission Approves $400,000 Grant for Off-highway Vehicle Park
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Parks and Wildlife commission recently approved a $400,000 grant for the development of the Escondido Draw Recreational Area, a new off-highway vehicle park located near Ozona in Crockett County.
Several years ago, the 78th Texas Legislature enacted Senate Bill 155, which closed almost all navigable stream beds in Texas to motorized vehicles, except for some parts of the Canadian and Red Rivers. The law also required the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to "facilitate development of sites for motor vehicle recreation other than protected freshwater areas."
The 79th Texas Legislature enacted Senate Bill 1311, which directed TPWD to establish and maintain a public system of trails and other recreational areas for use by off-highway vehicles (OHV).
"There are a lot of people in Texas who have these vehicles," said Steve Thompson with the TPWD Recreation Grants Branch. "We need to provide a place where they have legal access to land that is managed and maintained for OHV recreation."
The grant was awarded to the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition (TMTC) for the purpose of developing the 3,300 acres into a managed recreational trail park. The land was purchased last year, funded by a $1.3 million grant awarded last year by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
The commission approved grant funding for the acquisition with the condition that no development or public use of the property be permitted until the sponsor completed satisfactory environmental assessments, as well as development and management plans that adequately address adjacent landowner concerns.
The trails coalition has since completed archeology and endangered species surveys and held meetings with nearby landowners to better understand their concerns. Information gathered from these efforts helped guide the creation of a management and development plan for the recreation area.
"The Texas Motorized Trails Coalition resident and our staff met with the adjacent landowner whose property contains structures closest to the recreation area prior to the public meeting," Thompson explained. "While some neighboring landowners still do not welcome this new land use in their area, they appear to be more at ease with the management practices proposed by TMTC and their commitment to be ‘good neighbors.’"
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Texas Historical Commission are also reviewing the plan to make sure it does not impact cultural or biological resources.
The grant was made possible by the National Recreational Trails Fund, which comes from a portion of the federal gas tax generated by gasoline purchases to utilize off-road recreational vehicles. The purpose is to provide funding for projects that create new and maintain existing motorized and non-motorized recreational trails.
Additional information about off-highway vehicle recreation may be found on the TPWD Web site.
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