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Devil's River State Natural Area Land Swap

Editor's Note:  The message below was sent by Tom Goynes, president of the Texas Rivers Protection Association, to the paddling community. This is an  important issue and we reprint this here to keep paddlers informed of an issue that deserves our attention.

On October 13, I received the news release that is attached below (dated October 12).  It pertains to a plan that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has to trade the Devils River State Natural Area (DRSNA) plus 8 million dollars in cash for a smaller tract of land further down the Devils River known as the Devils River Ranch (DRR).  The plan was first made ³public² at a brown bag lunch that the executive director of TPWD holds several times a year with a few representatives of various conservation organizations (like the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society).  As far as we can tell, no representatives of paddling groups were present at that meeting.

There are some major problems that we see with this land swap:

1) The state would be losing, rather than gaining natural area (from the current 19,988 acres down to 17,600 acres).  And, while the state would be getting more waterfront (approximately 5 miles of ³riverfront² and 5 miles of lakefront ­ compared with the 1.5 miles of riverfront in the DRSNA) most of that waterfront would be flat water that is adversely affected by the winds coming off Lake Amistad.  It should also be noted that the DRR is
adjacent to the Amistad National Recreation Area, which is 58,500 acres in size, and contains numerous opportunities for camping, hiking, boating and other outdoor activities.

2) The 8 million dollars of additional money that the state will have to pay to conclude this ³swap² will use up all of the land acquisition money available to the TPWD and still leave a shortfall of 2 million dollars.  (We have been told that TPWD has 4 million dollars of land acquisition money, they will get an anonymous gift of 2 million dollars if they swap this land, and they will need to find the remaining 2 million dollars somewhere).

3) Even if the state can come up with the 8 million dollars to acquire this property, they will still need to find monies to complete a management plan (approximately $650,000) and construction and maintenance funds for this new park.  There are simply better ways for the state to spend its limited resources.

4) The loss of the DRSNA will mean that fly-fishermen, canoeists and kayakers wishing to run the Devils will lose the only public campsite that currently exists between Hwy 163 and Lake Amistad.  At this time, paddlers
can launch early in the morning at Bakers Crossing and make it to the primitive camping area at the DRSNA (about 15 miles by river) before dark. Currently, paddlers can use the DRSNA as a put in (it could be used as a take out as well, with a change in policy) to run the ten-mile section of river from the DRSNA to the private take out in the Blue Sage Subdivision.

We would suggest, as an alternative to this planned swap, that the state use its limited funds to:

1) Acquire (or develop) a put in near the Hwy 163 crossing.  (If the owners of Bakers Crossing are willing to sell, that would make a great acquisition).

2) Acquire (through purchase, lease or agreement) certain river accessible sites that can be used by river users for lunch spots and/or campsites. This would help eliminate many of the "trespass" issues related to running the Devils.

3) Acquire a take out - either in the vicinity of the current Blue Sage take out, or possibly a portion of the DRR.  (Paddlers don't need 17,000 acres of property for campsites, put ins or take outs - they need much smaller tracts of land).

We would also suggest that the state should modify its policy at the DRSNA:

Allow paddlers to have the combination to the gate to the river access area and allow paddlers to drive there to launch or take out their craft.  Allow paddlers to leave their vehicles in a safe area, out of the floodway, and
considerably closer to the river than the current parking area that is 1.5 miles from the river.  That way, paddlers could use the DRSNA as a put in or a take out.

It would also be helpful if the state would either put in composting toilets at the designated primitive campsites, or mandate that river users carry out all solid human waste.  The state should encourage zero impact camping.

To help eliminate altercations between river users and landowners, it might also be necessary for the state to instigate a river permit system for running the Devils, which would require certain equipment (like fire pans
and portable toilets) in a manner similar to the system the National Park System employs in Big Bend National Park.

If you agree with the above statements, it is very important that you convey your thoughts to the TPWD.  You have three possibilities to do so:

1) Plan to attend the hearing at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, October 26 in San Antonio Texas at the Central Public Library, 600 Soledad, San Antonio, TX (210) 207-2500

2) Plan to attend the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Meeting at 9 a.m. on November 4, in the Commission Hearing Room at TPWD headquarters, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744

3) Send a letter to Ted Hollingsworth, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744.  Or e-mail him at:

Your opinion is important, and we need you to express it if we are to save our access to the Devils River.  Thanks!

Tom Goynes
Texas Rivers Protection Association
444 Pecan Park Drive
San Marcos, TX

Oct. 12, 2010
Media Contact: Tom Harvey, (512) 389-4453   (512) 389-4453

TPWD Proposes Land Acquisition for New State Park on Devils River

AUSTIN, Texas ­ The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on Nov. 4 will consider a proposal to acquire a 17,638-acre property for a new state park on the Devils River in Val Verde County. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department leaders will hold public meetings about the proposal Oct. 20 in Del Rio and Oct. 26 in San Antonio.

The proposal would result in the exchange of the existing Devils River State Natural Area as partial payment for a privately owned ranch downriver, which would become a new state park. The ranch has significantly more river frontage and better public access as well as outstanding natural and cultural features.

³By repositioning our existing assets along the Devils River, we can increase public access to and awareness of this spectacular river, as well as expand protection of this region¹s uniquely important natural and
cultural resources,² said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. ³A permanent conservation easement on the existing state natural area property will prevent unsuitable development and ensure continued protection
there,² Smith said. ³The new property, which is also protected by a conservation easement, will become a premiere park to boost the regional economy and provide enhanced recreation options to Texans for decades to come.²

The ranch has 10 miles of frontage on the Devils River and Amistad Reservoir with spectacular views from mesas and canyons, and a variety of wildlife habitats.

If the commission approves this proposal, TPWD is committed to a comprehensive master planning process, involving a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including landowners, paddlers, traditional park users, and
local officials, resulting in a public use plan outlining how and when people can enjoy the property.

³The agency¹s goal is to balance landowner rights along the river with public recreational access and effective stewardship of this region¹s incredible natural and cultural resources,² says Scott Boruff, Deputy
Executive Director of Operations.

The department is working to inform elected officials, Devils River landowners, key stakeholder groups and the public about the proposal. The agency will hold two formal public meetings where they will explain the
proposal and answer questions:

6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 20 ­ Del Rio Civic Center, Mesquite Room, 1915
Veteran¹s Blvd., Del Rio, TX (830-774-8641)
6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 26 ­ Central Public Library,
600 Soledad, San Antonio,
TX (210) 207-2500       (210) 207-2500
The public may comment on the proposal at the Nov. 4 Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting in Austin. Questions or comments about the proposal can be sent by email to  or by regular mail to Ted Hollingsworth,
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744.

PHOTOS of the ranch property proposed for acquisition are available for news media use as high resolution .jpg files that can be downloaded from the News Images area of the TPWD website.

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