Presenter: Tim Hogsett

Commission Agenda Item No. 7
Land Transfer – Rita Blanca State Park
January 2002

I. Discussion: Negotiations are currently underway between Parks and Wildlife and the City of Dalhart to consider the transfer of Lake Rita Blanca State Park to the City of Dalhart.

House Bill 2108, 76th Legislature, amended Parks and Wildlife Code to include grants for interim operation and maintenance of parks owned or operated and maintained by the department and being transferred to a political subdivision for operation and maintenance of the site. Included in the negotiation of the proposed transfer of state parks sites will be to consider transfer grant funding to facilitate the transfer. A total of $2 million is available each year of the FY02-03 biennium. Grants will be awarded based upon a proposal from the political subdivision explaining the need for transfer grant funding and detailing the exact amount requested for operations and maintenance. No final proposal regarding the potential transfers will be brought forward to the Commission without extensive opportunity for local public review and input, and coordination with the Texas Historical Commission.

With Commission approval today, Department staff will continue negotiations toward transfer of Lake Rita Blanca State Park. The Commission will be asked to approve final transfer proposals and transfer grant funding when negotiations have been successfully completed.

Lake Rita Blanca State Park is the northernmost state park in Texas. It is located in Hartley County, on the south side of Dalhart, and consists of approximately 1668.4 acres, with Lake Rita Blanca itself covering 150 acres. The park was acquired in 1990 through a 101-year lease with Dallam and Hartley counties for the purpose of managing bi-county property as a state park for educational and scientific study, for use and enjoyment of the general public, and for demonstration of good resource management. It was opened to the public in 1994 and became a state park in 1995. . Although Lake Rita Blanca no longer has a fishing recreation opportunity, it is the second-most important wintering area in the Texas Panhandle for migratory waterfowl in the central flyway. Each year, thousands of ducks and geese come to Lake Rita Blanca to winter. It is estimated that the number of geese alone generally ranges between 40,000 and 100,000. A large number of neotropical, migratory birds also frequent the park each spring and summer. In addition, there is a wide variety of wildlife, including scaled quail; bald eagles; mule deer; and swift, gray, and red foxes that make their home in the park. There are no entrance fees for this park, and approved activities are hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling. Motorized vehicles are not permitted. This is a day-use park.

Discussions thus far have been under the premise that Hartley County would cancel the current lease with the Department and then deed the property to the City of Dalhart. The City and County have entered into a written agreement to do this. Further discussion will be related to grant funds and need for renovations and improvements of the site.

II. Recommendation: Staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion:

"The Executive Director is authorized to take all steps necessary to negotiate site transfers and enter into project agreements for the Lake Rita Blanca State Park site.”

Attachment – 1
1. Exhibit A – Fiscal Note (available upon request)

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