On a hot July day in 1978, two El Paso men spotted a bulldozer blading a road across a pristine part of the Franklin Mountains. It was land El Pasoans long had hoped to include in a wilderness park. Now, it was being tragically scarred.
Word spread quickly. Many concerned citizens met to learn more about this threat and decide what to do. At that meeting, the Wilderness Park Coalition, now the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition, was born. Remarkably, less than a year later, El Paso’s long-held dream of a wilderness park in the Franklin Mountains became reality. The Texas Legislature passed, and the governor signed, a bill creating Franklin Mountains State Park.
Franklin Mountains State Park today includes some 24,000 acres and is the largest park in the world entirely within a city’s limits. The Coalition was at the center of the effort to create this wonderful park. It has been at the center of efforts to protect the Franklins ever since.
Throughout the past 26 years, the Coalition has worked tirelessly and effectively on behalf of the Franklin Mountains. Among the events in which it has played a leading role:
– (1984) establishment of a City zoning classification (Planned Mountain Development) designed to ensure environmentally sensitive development in mountainous terrain.
– (1983-85) removal from the original Park legislation of a restriction that had prevented Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) from spending funds to operate and maintain the Park.
– (1985-93) protection of the New Mexico portion of the Franklin Mountains, plus a corridor linking the Franklins and the Organs, in what is today the Organ/Franklin Mountains Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
-(1986-88) the siting of Cohen Sports Stadium east of the Patriot Freeway, rather than west on Castner Range lands that are a vital potential addition to the State Park.
-(1987-89) conveyance of 6,834 acres of City of El Paso land in the Park to TPW at a bargain price and without a blanket easement some had sought for putting dams, water tanks and related facilities in the Park.
-(1991-94) completion of a Management Plan for Franklin Mountains State Park that emphasizes careful stewardship of the Park’s outstanding natural features.
-(1997) permanent protection in the Park for lands below the Thunderbird rock formation, without other lands being removed from the Park
-(1997) conveyance of General Land Office mineral rights in the Park to TPW, ensuring no future mining in the Park.
The Coalition Today
The Coalition remains equally active today. Our current priorities include:
– addition of the Army’s Castner Range lands west of the Patriot Freeway to the State Park,
– proper implementation of the Management Plan for the Park,
– increased volunteer participation in Park operation, and
– protection of sensitive areas as development takes place around the Park.