El Paso group moves to save mountains

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EL PASO — Although the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition can’t move mountains, they’re hoping a petition can move the boundaries that protect them.

The coalition’s “We the People” petition aims to preserve the undeveloped land owned by the city of El Paso to the west and the east of Franklin Mountains State Park—making the land part of the park. The petition, said Jim Tolbert, member of the Franklin Mountain Coalition, garnered more than 6,000 signatures. He plans to present it to the Public Service Board next week.

“Privately owned land is not part of the petition,” Tolbert said. “In the state of Texas that is sacred land. It would be considered a taking.”

Texas Parks and Wildlife Officer Jonathon Murphy said that the Franklin Mountain State Park is one of the largest urban parks in the U.S. covering more than 27,000 acres. Adding the city-owned land to the state park would prevent future development of it.

With more than 100 miles of trails, the park attracts mountain bikers, hikers, and campers.

Murphy said that people enjoy the park because they can stay in the city and experience the wilderness at the same time.

“We have no electricity and no running water in the park so it is truly a wilderness area in the middle of El Paso,” he said.

Tolbert said that, while community opinion on extending the park boundaries is mixed, he received many notes with the petition that said, “These are my mountains and this is my heritage to leave to my kids.”

The park, open daily from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., is located at 1331 McKelligon Canyon Road.

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