In an amazing turn of events Texas may actually see an increase in public access to the pristine Devil’s River. You may recall my frantic plea for help last October when paddlers almost lost all public access to the Devil’s River. At that time Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) was considering a land swap/purchase involving the current Devil’s River State Natural Area and what is known as Devil’s River Ranch. This land swap/purchase proposal was bad news for Texas Paddlers and many of you took up the call to let TPWD know. As a result the land swap purchase is no longer in consideration and instead TPWD is considering buying Devils River Ranch outright and adding it to the current Devils River State Natural Area.
TPWD committee will decided today, in a meeting in Austin, weather or not to go through with the purchase. If they decide to buy it will cost $4 million in state and federal funds dedicated to park acquisition and $9 million in private donations. Grand total $13 million and over $3 million less then the original asking price. This is a much better situation then the October swap/purchase that was going to cost $8 million even after swapping properties.
The Houston Chronicle is billing this as a win win and I couldn’t agree more. Not only will the only public property on the upper reaches of the Devil’s River remain intact, but an accessible take out point could be created at the new Devil’s River Ranch. As things stand right now anyone wishing to paddle the river must go through private business owner Gerald Bailey to be able to paddle the river. This is mandated on TPWD own web page allowing Gerald to run a Devil’s River monopoly and charge too much (in my opinion.) Click here for more details.
If the Devils River Ranch is purchased it would be possible to plan a day trip from the Devils River State Natural Area to the new Devils River Ranch. This is assuming TPWD holds true to their claim to “pursue improvements… making recreational activities on the area more attractive and accessible.” I think most would agree the main obstacle keeping people from recreating at the current State Natural Area is the overly zealous park ranger Kerr (who does everything in his power to make a trip there unpleasant.) A change in policy is the first priority in making the Devils River more accessible.
At the end of the day I pray this plan goes through. I pray TPWD does their best to make the Devil’s River an enjoyable place to paddle, camp, hike or likewise. Only time will tell. Even if TPWD does buy the land it will be more then 2 years before it is open to the public. Until then I will do my best to keep you posted on pertinent information regarding the new park.