Loss of Fort Worth Prairie Park is a cause for sadness

Posted Friday, Jul. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The tallgrass prairie covering 2,000 acres 18 miles south of downtown Fort Worth is a natural jewel created by time — a million years in the making.

That serene, diverse patch of property, home to a variety of plant and animal life, is about the last remnant of the vast landscape that helped define Fort Worth as the “Queen City of the Prairie” long before it got the nickname “Cowtown.”

Just as time created and molded this incredible ecosystem, it also signaled its end. Time ran out this week for those who have been fighting to preserve it for generations to come.

The land was bought by the General Land Office (GLO) in 2005 for $21 million with the expressed purpose of reselling it at a profit to benefit the Permanent School Fund, established to support public education in Texas.

The purchase was made at about the time the economy began to take a downturn and when conservationists were mounting an effort to save what they had dubbed the Fort Worth Prairie Park.

Jarid Manos, founder of Great Plains Restoration Council, spent seven years advocating for the prairie park, educating politicians, community leaders and environmentalists about the unique qualities and ecological importance of the land. He gave tours to anyone who would follow, and he used it as a “healing” spot for troubled youths who were regular visitors to the property.

He attracted interest from individuals all over the country who gave local activists hope that the prairie might be preserved.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, while sympathetic to the cause and willing to sell the property for conservation if someone could raise the money, always maintained that the GLO was not in the park business and eventually would have to sell the property for a profit.

With the improved economy and the fact that the under-construction Chisholm Trail Parkway project crosses the prairie, there has been renewed interest in the acreage from developers. Tuesday, the School Land Board voted unanimously to approve the sale of Rock Creek Ranch (as the GLO calls the prairie land) for what Patterson said was “a tidy profit for the state’s Permanent School Fund.”

Details of the price and who the buyer is won’t be known until final terms of the transaction are complete, the GLO said. Most likely, the purchaser is a developer.

While this is a sad time for conservationists, the GLO can’t be faulted for doing its job.

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