Thursday, March 5, 2015

More on the Keystone-Trash Collection Controversy

Photo from

Yesterday at the Open Space Advisory Board meeting, a representative from the City Manager's office said that the Collection Station project was on hold and that it wasn't "happening at this time." That is the same message that other city officials are giving: it's on hold for the foreseeable future . . . but just wait. Although both Charlie Wakeem and myself requested in February that a discussion and action item about the collection station be part of yesterday's agenda, it was deleted from that agenda at the insistence of Rep. Cortney Niland. As we were considering the April agenda, I moved that the item be on our April agenda. That motioned was seconded and the motion passed unanimously. I made it clear that this was a motion approved and not a "request" or a "suggestion" and that I expected it on the April agenda. The matter is not dead and OSAB should weigh in. Creating a park next to Keystone or conserving that land in some other way makes the most sense to me. El Paso adopted smart code a couple of years ago. Since when does one put an industrial park next to a wetlands? The whole matter of incompatible zoning will also be discussed at the next meeting - another motion that was seconded and passed unanimously and that should not be trumped by Chair or Secretary or a Council Representative.

At yesterday's meeting, Marilyn Guida made the following statement suggesting that the matter must be dealt with now:

The City of El Paso Environmental Services Department is proposing to construct a Citizen Collection Station as part of a larger Municipal Service Center at Doniphan and Kappa on the West side.

This facility will be located a stone’s throw south of the wonderful 52 acre natural and cultural resource preserve called Keystone Heritage Park (KHP).  This is city-owned land developed and managed by the Keystone Heritage Park Board. It includes the nine acre Keystone Archaeological Preserve. The preserve protects a State Archaeological Landmark and National Register prehistoric site, the Keystone Dam Archaeological Site.

There are potential, probable (probable meaning more likely than possible) undiscovered prehistoric cultural resources that may be on the city-owned land south of and outside the KHP fence.  

The Keystone Dam Archaeological Site is a nationally significant site. If the area around this site is degraded, it can endanger the status of the site for the National Register. In other words, the Keystone Dam Archaeological Site can be delisted from the National Register.  

This is the oldest site of its size, indicating an organized community, in Middle Archaic times (approx. 4,000 to 1,200 B.C.) north of the Mexican border in the Southwest.

The predominant native Chihuahuan Desert plants in that area are Four Wing Salt Bush and Mesquite, both of which were important food plants for the ancient people as well as having many other ancient uses. The presence of these plants are often reliable indicators of prehistoric cultural resources.

Before they do any land disturbance the City has to comply with state law to determine if any undiscovered prehistoric cultural resources are located there.  There are procedures within the Texas Historical Commission for complying with state law regarding cultural resources and archaeological sites.

Also of importance is the open space potential of that site, to expand upon the existing KHP. Any newly discovered cultural resources could be preserved and monitored within designated open space.

The term cultural resources is preferable to the term “archaeological site.” Archaeology is a methodology for learning about the past. The cultural resources are what connect us to the people of the past and how they lived. It’s about the ancient people, not the archaeologists.  The laws are written using the term cultural resources or specifying that the law is about recovering information about culture. 

With a focus on ancient people, we also need to recognize that we have people living today in El Paso who trace their heritage to the ancient people. Thus we need to bring those descendants into the process of discussing what to do about prehistoric cultural resources. I am speaking of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo people (The Tigua Tribe) and the Piro-Manso-Tigua Tribe of Las Cruces which includes families in El Paso and Juarez.

The 1996 Parks & Open Space plan recommended that all the land east of Doniphan from Sunset Drive to Sunland Park Drive be open space – 105 acres.

In the most recent Open Space Plan, that area shrank to the land north of KHP. Now the land north of KHP is being built up. 

Today, in 2015, the only open space left between KHP and Sunland Park Drive is this city-owed land that Environmental Services is proposing for development.

The City Council should be encouraged to make a final formal determination on use of the site south of KHP.  As long as no final decision is made there is no guarantee of what will happen to that area. 

Leaving that property as it is now invites the potential for illegal dumping, for vehicles driving around off paved roads, for camping by homeless people, for illegal activities, etc. This endangers the cultural and natural resources as well as the safety and security of KHP and the neighboring uses including a church and residential area.

Some final determination must be made as soon as possible.  The City Council should dedicate that land to open space.

Please sign the petition and ask your friends and family to do the same.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Environmental Services and Rep. Cortney Niland are saying that the construction of an ugly, noisy trash collection station next to Keystone Heritage Park is dead . . . for now. That's been the ruse all along. 

The "buffer" is just 50 feet between this "concept" and Keystone Heritage Park.

When first brought to public (and the Open Space Advisory Board's) attention, it was just a concept, a thought and nothing more. That was Joyce Wilson's lie. Suddenly it turned into a green-lighted project. Now, because of public outcry, it has been stopped again. Yet the Director of Environmental Services, Ellen Smyth, says: :". . . the reality is that [the collection station] is what the land was purchased for.  So it may come up again in the future." 

Click image to enlarge. Dam in background.
As the stakes in these pictures show, it certainly will. Just wait until the public outcry dies down and nobody is paying attention especially OSAB which may be lured back into complacence by staff and its own chair.

What visitors to Keystone get to see across the street.
Please keep signing the online petition against the collection station and keep spreading the word. If you are on Facebook, please tell your friends. HERE is where you will find the online petition. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sign the Online We the People Petition

Click image to enlarge.

It's online. Please sign and spread the word to everyone you know. Just go to Preserve Our Franklin Mountains from Further Development.

The Monday Links: Power of Trees, Neighborhoods, Local Food, Cities and States

[Monday is "Links Day" with links gathered over the past week to online "stuff" to read and sites to surf that impact us directly or offer information about our regional issues. Please feel free to send me links to any conservation, environmental, simple living, city planning, energy and water, etc. stories that you have come across online.] 

The Power of Trees:

What's the Best Technology to Fight Climate Chage? Trees May Be the Answer

Want Your City to Thrive? Look to Its Trees

Local and Healthful Food are Winning:

Local Roots vs. Industrial Agriculture

Is the Junk-Food Era Drawing to a Close?

How Should We Eat?

Water Wars:

Hays Water Fight Portends Battles to Come


Fracking case is on the move

Energy Innovation:

Portland is now powered by water pipes and flushing toilets

California communities seize control of their energy futures

The Power of Neighborhoods and Cooperatives:

These Neighbors Got Together to Buy Vacant Buildings. Now They're Renting to Bakers and Brewers

Ban Plastic Botles (Seriously):

San Francisco Becomes the First City to Ban Sale of Plastic Bottles

Web Sites to Visit, Read, Bookmark and Tell Others About:

Watershed Management Group

Another Vampire That Just Won't Die

You know how vampires work. They flee the least hint of sunlight and hide in their sarcophagi until it is pitch black again and their victims will be caught unawares.

Such it is with the collection station next to Keystone Park.

It appears now that the project is dead at least for now. (Read David Crowder's excellent article in this week's El Paso Inc.) With pressure mounting, Rep. Cortney Niland has said "no" to the expansion. She has said that before and then the project mysteriously rises again. It is dark and nobody is looking. Count Dracula rises again from the dead.

According to Ellen Smyth, the Environmental Director, the construction of an expanded collection station next to a precious wetlands, bird habitat and archaeological site is not going to happen for the foreseeable future. But she also tells us that the land was purchased just for such an expansion so it may come up again in the future.

The Open Space Master Plan makes it clear that "Keystone Heritage Park is a key cultural site as well as the remnant of a unique wetlands zone. Preservation of undeveloped lands around the park should be a high priority of the city in the near future." The strategy for preservation is the acquisition of land around the park. ". . . without the acquisition of the remaining 20 acres around the park," states the Master Plan, "the facility will be a mere shadow of what it could have been." (Towards a Bright Future: A Green Infrastructure Plan for El Paso, Texas - the Open Space Master Plan - page 5-32)

What should be done? Land for a collection station away from Keystone should be identified. The current land next to Keystone should be a dedicated park site to complement the wetlands park. Until there is a firm alternative plan, the City will green light the collection station next to Keystone when nobody is looking. We will wake up one day and discover that a bulldozer has begun to scrape and shape the land. We don't want to be caught unawares.

For now, the project is off. But until the land is preserved and another site faraway is chosen for the ugly, noisy collection station, then the bulldozers will come and the City will tell us that there is nothing to see.

Please keep signing the online petition and spread the word.

Let's make sure that this vampire never wakes up again.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

On the Other Hand, NOT So Good News

The Open Space Advisory Board agenda for next Wednesday, March 4th, does not contain an item for discussion and action on the scheduled building of a trash collection station next to Keystone Heritage Park. The Chairwoman, Katrina Martich, had promised at the last meeting that the item would be on the agenda. Apparently, Rep. Cortney Niland, has interfered.  Here is an email from City Planning's David Coronado:

From: Coronado, David A. 
Sent: Thursday, February 26, 2015 11:06 AM

Good morning,
I’m sending you a copy of the draft agenda for next week’s OSAB meeting. Please let me know if you have any changes.

The only item that I know is not included in this is the Keystone MSC proposed expansion. I reached out to Ms. Niland’s office earlier this week and she asked if the Board can hold off on taking an action at this time. She wants to reach out to residents and the Board herself at a later date. Her office will coordinate those efforts when they are ready to do that. I will make sure to contact Mr. Wakeem and let him know of this as well so that he can perhaps be the Board’s liaison on these efforts moving forward.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Let me be clear. The Board - not a Rep - determines its agenda. A majority of the Board could force the item back onto the agenda.

Let's see what happens.

BTW, it appears that Cortney Niland will run unopposed for District 8. This is bad news for El Pasoans. Bad news for the future of our water. Bad news for the PSB. Bad news for open space values. Her upcoming fundraiser at the baseball stadium is likely to raise quite a few dollars. Money that she can now save for a run for Mayor. Good Lord deliver us.