Page 31


Vain:SA7r , The Port of Topolobampo sands. There’s more state parkland in Brewster and Presidio counties than in all the rest of the state, say conservationists. Big Bend National Park alone is 801,000 acres. “We’re a place you can come to and get away;’ says Fran Sage, a Sierra Club member from Brewster County. “For us, La Entrada would be the destruction of one of the last places you can go to live or visit and have a satisfying experience with The Big Bend is wide and empty and isolated and severe, and that’s why people like it. other people and the land. Once you run trucks through this area, it will never be the same again. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.” Dowdey adds: “To say this is a special area and needs saving is not a radical idea at all.” The TxDOT study began last fall, and by this spring, it was time to hold public meetings. The audience at Alpine’s meeting on March 13 was 400-strong. The school auditorium was too small to hold everyone, and the crowd spilled onto the sidewalk. Asked for a show of those in favor of La Entrada, one soul, a trucking operator from Presidio, raised his hand. photo by Alberto Tomas Halpern There were passionate speeches and strong feelings. About 40 people spoke, bringing up concerns that ranged from health issues to the safety of Mexican trucks to the desire for peace and quiet. Some thought the route benefited Midland-Odessa at the expense of the Big Bend. “It grieves me that our state leaders would sacrifice this region for a few people in Midland,” says Bill Addington, an activist and Sierra Blanca resident. Many at the Alpine meeting also attended similar gatherings in Fort Stockton and Midland. “I was a little surprised at the number of people who were at the Alpine meeting;’ Thurin says. “I think it’s great. What the whole process is about is to talk to folksand they were willing to talk.” To tackle issues involved in the trade route, the consulting firm working on the study with TxDOT is meeting this summer with small groups of stakeholders to focus on La Entrada. A second round of public meetings will be held in late August or early September. A third round occurs around the first of next year. The research involves traffic models, current traffic, and a forecast of traffic in 20 to 30 years, information gleaned in part from discussions with the Mexican side of the Entrada equation. The study will be complete in spring 2008. “Generally, at the end of the feasibility study, the results are turned over to district engineers;’ Thurin says. “If we find a four-lane, divided highway isn’t feasible, but that we may see quite a bit of traffic, say around Marfa, one of our recommendations may be to look at a relief route. From that JULY 27, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13