By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
Help could be on the way for Hays County as it attempts to purchase the rights for 2,400 acres near FM 1626 and FM 967 for a public park and conservation site.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton said Tuesday that the Hill Country Conservancy (HCC) and the City of Austin have expressed interest in helping to fund the acquisition of Dahlstrom Ranch property. The Dahlstrom family is making the land available for conservation at a price tag of $10 million.
Though the price would take a big bite out of $30 million in parks bond funding approved by county voters in May 2007, it could also be a bargain. Barton said independent appraisals have put the land’s value at around $18 million.
Help from outside could drop Hays County’s cost “substantially,” Barton said. Without tipping off who is willing to spend what, Barton said the outside funding could wind up paying close to half of the purchase.
Barton said the matter is likely to go on the Austin City Council agenda in the next month.
The conservation project interests Austin and the HCC because the land sits atop significant upland recharge features for the Barton Springs portion of the Edwards Aquifer. Barton said large caves carrying ground water dwell beneath the ground.
The commissioners agreed Tuesday to co-sponsor, with HCC, an application to the National Parks Service for program grant for the Dahlstrom Project. Barton said the funds would go towards planning the public access portion of the proposed park.