San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

November 11th, 2010
Park, wetlands back in shooting sports request

111110posab

Texas Parks and Wildlife Education Director Steve Hall addresses the Hays County Parks and Open Space Advisory Board and an audience last week. Photo by Sean Batura.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

A riverfront park and a wetlands area once again have been included in a proposed recreational project on the Hillert Tract in eastern San Marcos.

A nonprofit conservation organization, Texas Shooting Sports Complex (TxSSC), proposes that the county purchase the 563-acre Hillert Tract and devote 350 acres of it to a shooting sports complex. TxSSC proposes to devote the remaining acreage to a wetlands area and a public park with 2,000 feet fronting the San Marcos River.

A month ago, TxSSC President Stephen Marlow said his group supported the county buying only the 350-acre portion for the shooting sports complex.

Hillert Tract owners offered the 350-acre portion to the county for $3.5 million, said Hays County Parks and Open Space Advisory Board (POSAB) member Melinda Mallea. The pot of unreserved parks bond money has shrunk during the last few months, perhaps contributing to the second offer of reduced acreage.

Commissioners allocated more than $5 million of the parks bond funds in August, bringing the remaining balance from the county’s 2007 parks bond to about $3.4 million and virtually eliminating all hope of obtaining the full $5.5 million before another parks bond election. The owners of the Hillert Tract still offer the full 563 acres to the county for $5.5 million.

“We’re wanting them (Hays County Commissioners) to go ahead and make an offer on the whole piece of property,” Marlow said. “The idea is, hey, this owner is willing to negotiate.”

Marlow said the final scope of the project is dependent on the outcome of land negotiations between the commissioners court and the Hillert Tract owners, though he reiterated that his group is promoting the full 563 acres for purchase by the county.

TxSSC members were on hand at the POSAB meeting last week to make a presentation and ask for the remainder of the parks and open space funds. The commissioners court tasked POSAB with scoring and ranking all parks and open space projects. Based on POSAB’s scoring criteria, the riverfront park and the wetlands area will fetch higher scores for TxSSC’s project. TxSSC officials say they do not have other sources of funding for the Hillert Tract.

During the POSAB meeting last week, a board member asked TxSSC representatives what will happen if the county cannot come up with enough money to buy the full 563 acres of the Hillert Tract.

“That would be a decision that the commissioners would have to determine in their negotiations with the landowners,” Marlow replied. “They could buy part, they could buy all. In this market, they could make an offer. My crystal ball’s kind of foggy on that.”

TxSSC representatives said the Hillert Tract’s owners may be willing to accept a much lower price than $5.5 million.

Anderson and Robert Mayo, the owners of the Hillert Tract, said they have worked for the past four years to bring all the entitlements to the tract that would allow them to make it a high-density home development with a riverfront park. In August, Anderson said he and Mayo are intrigued with TxSSC’s proposal because they would like to preserve the land while getting a good return on their investment.

At an Aug. 18 meeting of the Hays County Commissioners Court, residents said a public park on the Hillert Tract may become a nuisance to them. In response to their concerns, Mayo said, “If the (public) park isn’t put there, there’s going to be like a 1,500-home development that’s going to have a park down there on the river.”

TxSSC proposes to use grants and donations to pay for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the shooting sports complex once the county secures land for the project. TxSSC anticipates receiving a Texas Parks and Wildlife grant of $1.5 million over three years to build the ranges and a hunter education facility. TxSSC proposes that the county own all equipment, buildings, and other improvements on the land, and collect all revenue generated from range usage fees.

Among the 12 entities proposing projects for parks and open space bond funding, TxSSC is the only one requesting all of the remaining parks bond funds.

“Just doing simple math, if there’s $3.4 million available, you can do seven projects right now,” said POSAB member Ron Riggins to TxSSC members. “I just did the math. Seven projects out of the 12 for $3.4 million, and you’re asking for all of it. I’m not saying I’ve scored anything, but I’m just saying by doing simple math, we can do seven out of the 12 projects for $3.4 million, so why is yours more important than the other seven?”

Immediately after Riggins’ question, one proponent of TxSSC’s project spoke up from the audience.

“How much money is going to come back to the county from those other seven (projects)?” the audience member asked.

Responding to Riggins, TxSSC representatives said their project is, in a sense, three projects due to the inclusion of the wetlands, shooting ranges, and riverfront park.

Other projects in the running for parks bond funds incorporate different recreational elements. Swimberley, for example, proposes to be self-sufficient in regards to maintenance and operations, though not a revenue-generator for the county besides, possibly, being a water recreation attraction for out-of-county visitors. TxSSC members said their project is unique among the others seeking parks bond funds because it has the potential to generate money for the county from usage fees and the re-selling of lead from used bullets.

Said State Representative-Elect Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), who attended the POSAB meeting last week, “I did want to come here tonight and show my support for the shooting sports complex. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to have a positive economic in the area here in San Marcos and Hays County — and really Central Texas. We’ve seen other shooting sports complexes, like in Kerrville, bring millions of dollars into their local economy, and I would love to see that come here. It’s a great thing when you can keep your money local, so these guys don’t have to go to North Austin (to shoot). They can keep their money here locally. And it’s an even better thing when we can get other people to bring their money here to Hays County. So I just wanted to show up tonight and show my support.”

TxSSC Vice President J.B Kolodzey told POSAB members that the shooting sports complex is conservatively projected to return $50,000 to the county in its first year of operation, before full build-out. Kolodzey said the facility will return about an additional 15 percent more each year thereafter until full build-out. According to TxSSC officials, the shooting sports complex will generate approximately $400,000 net revenue after full build-out, which could take three to four years.

Kolodzey said that within about three years, the shooting sports complex can host “at least regional, if not state events,” which he said will attract “anywhere from 800 to 1,500 people over a three- to four-day period.”

Kolodzey said each out-of-county visitor can be expected to inject an average of $150 per day into the local economy.

“We (Texas Parks and Wildlife) are obviously interested in this (shooting sports complex project) as well,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Education Director Steve Hall said at last week’s POSAB meeting. “This is part of our mission in terms of both hunter safety, hunter education, but also the shooting sports, for people you have in the back of the room here that enjoy those positive uses of firearms and sporting arms. We’re in it is a partner. We’ve got grant funding and we’re anxious to proceed with an application process, the grant process. None of that can happen without the land. So, my interest is just watching the process. When you all have the land, then we get involved with the construction and the development costs.”

The proposed shooting sports complex would accommodate activities associated with archery, air rifle and pistol, bench rest shooting, shotgun, skeet, trap, 5 stand, sporting clays, handgun, rifle, small bore, and muzzleloaders.

The two other entities proposing projects located in San Marcos include the Trust for Public Land and Friends of Craddock Park.

Friends of Craddock Park proposes 135.89 acres of primarily green space at the corner of RR 12 and Craddock Avenue. The group asks for bond funds totaling $2,281,900. The project consists of aquifer recharge land suitable for hiking trails and related activities, and includes possible habitat suitable for the Golden Cheeked Warbler, an endangered bird included in the county’s regional habitat conservation plan. The plan has yet to be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Trust for Public Land sponsors the expansion of the Purgatory Creek natural area project, which involves adding 601 acres to the 463-acre Purgatory Park green space. Trust for Public Land is asking for $950,000 in parks and open space bond funds for the project. The project consists of aquifer recharge land suitable for hiking trails and related activities, and includes possible warbler habitat.

(Editor’s Note: The above has been corrected. The person originally identified above as Stephen Sundquist now is correctly identified as Ron Riggins.)

Email Email | Print Print

--

24 thoughts on “Park, wetlands back in shooting sports request

  1. These TxSSC guys really need to find a way to make some of the money appear for buying this land. They shouldn’t rely only upon the county to purchase the entire tract when the county has the responsibility to protect other lands as well. I for one am a huge proponent of using some of this HCP money for the expansion of Purgatory Creek. This would not become possible if all of this county money was to be used for a shooting complex. We know there is habitat out on Purgatory along with very important lands that recharge our aquifer. It would be a better idea to find more funding to purchase this land and then come to the county and ask for the remainder of funds, therefore allowing for other projects to be taken on. Mr. Sundquist made a good point by stating how many projects could be completed with this 3.4mil. Now let us remember that ‘Habitat Conservation’ is not expected to be a profitable venture.

  2. “it has the potential to generate money for the county from usage fees and the re-selling of lead from used bullets.”

    Lead from used bullets…

    Sounds like a big money maker.

  3. Not a BIG money maker, but it can make some money.

    I saw a figure on the web that estimated that an average sized range can earn about $6K per year from recycling its spent bullets. When you’re running a non-profit organization, every revenue stream is important.

  4. I’m sure someone here has the numbers on how much of the bond money has been spent or is scheduled to be spent in each precinct.

    1500 homes on a 563 acre tract would mean about 3 homes per acre, so they need water and waste water service. (before you correct my math 10% was taken out for roads) And Mr. Mayo has done some nice developments, also done some bad ones.

  5. good luck on the development of this property. The price tag is up there and i’m w/Stephen about using the money for other projects rather than this main one. The property isn’t exactly “beautiful” so, developing it will be interesting to say the least.

    personally, i’m curious how all the relatives from the people who are buried on the cemetary at this location feel. Whether they want a subdivision or a shooting complex? I’m all for a shooting complex in hays county, but not at the expense of using all the parks money. It’s just not fair to all the other projects that are also on the board.

    flame away!!!

  6. If the county buys this land, it is removed from the tax roles. If it is such a great deal, investors should jump at the chance to buy and develop it. Isn’t this the direction around San Marcos that housing development should be encouraged? At some point the city will surely annex this area. Shouldn’t city planners be consulted? I, for one, would never consider visiting a park next to a shooting range. It is a ridiculous proposal to squander public funds for use by a vocal and rich minority. This is not how I think this money is supposed to be spent.

  7. It should also be noted that most of the 12 projects proposed have also set aside matching funds for their projects. Many have proposed a $1 for $1 match and some have offered to take on over 50% of the projects total costs. Has TxSSC made a similar commitment? Just something to think about.

  8. The county should jump at the chance to buy SM river frontage. IMO the biggest shortcoming of our river is that there are so few places to access it. I suppose if I dig around I can find the location of this tract; can anyone make that easy for me? What roads is it near? What are the approximate boundaries? Thanks.

  9. @ Dano

    How much money will we have to spend to recover that lead? Aren’t you gong to have to pay someone to pick it up? It doesn’t just jump in a waste barrel. Then we have to pay someone to transport it (that much lead is a hazardous material and has to be transported according to EPA and TxDOT/TCEQ regs- those services aren’t cheap. We can’t just pile it in a pickup truck and drive it over to Green Guy (legally).

    I for one don’t want any lead near my water sources. Ever heard of leaching? Some plant species are known to leach heavy metals and can store heavy metals in their root systems. Without an environmental study (which would cost millions), we shouldn’t even consider the idea.

    Why couldn’t a private shooting range be put in? Because the market isn’t there. Why should we have a taxpayer funded one if a private business can’t even bring one in. If the market for a range was TRULY there, a private complex would have been built already.

  10. If the county wastes our money on this project it will kill any future bond packages. This isn’t what we voted for, this project is nothing more than a private club for a small percentage of citizens funded at our expensive. This money is for all Hays County citizens not a select few who enjoy shooting and have the means to do so. The bond was to fund parks, not some redneck country club.

  11. LOL hays county kid. well put.

    bob, take highway that goes in back of goodnight. once you pass CR 266 it will be next property on left. gate is shut, no trespassing signs but there is a public cemetary at the end of the property that backs up to the river. Once you pass 266 you will see a bunch of white cattle, next property…

    good comments people..

  12. Given, a small percentage of Hays county residents shoot. A small percentage hike. A small percentage bike. A small percentage play tennis or skate….and so on. Yet we have facilities to accommodate these people. Why should a shooting range be subjected to a standard of use that many of our existing park facilities aren’t?

    As far as the cost of gathering and disposing of used lead…sure there are costs associated with the process. There would be costs associated with the proper disposal of spent shells regardless (you wouldn’t expect them to just leave them laying around, would you?) so the point is that at least there is a revenue stream available to help offset those costs. Proper and timely fathering of the lead would also prevent the leaching that you are worried about.

    Finally, I need to remind you that a private nonprofit will operate the range once it is built. It will be they that assume the responsibility and risk of running the place, not the county or it’s taxpayers. Plus, since it is a nonprofit, we are assured that all funds from the operations will be used to further the stated cause of the group – and not lining anyone’s pockets.

    So far I have seen no compelling reason not to do this project. Sure there are some who have other pet projects that they would prefer to see get the funds, but the primary arguments against it seem to be “just because” or based on faulty assumptions about the operation or management of the range.

  13. Dano I couldn’t disagree with you more.

    “Given, a small percentage of Hays county residents shoot. A small percentage hike. A small percentage bike. A small percentage play tennis or skate….and so on. Yet we have facilities to accommodate these people. Why should a shooting range be subjected to a standard of use that many of our existing park facilities aren’t?”

    Those other parks mentioned aren’t “pay to play” they are free for all of us to enjoy if we choose too. Plus all the proposed parks have offered matching funds, the gun range MIGHT get a state grant.

    “Finally, I need to remind you that a private nonprofit will operate the range once it is built.”

    Exactly!!!!! “Nonprofit”, hence NO PROFIT, no revenue stream. Why would all of us pay for a bond to start a nonprofit that will most likely serve more people from outside of Hays County than the actual folks who leave here?

    “So far I have seen no compelling reason not to do this project.”

    Dude you just don’t get simple math. The gun club wants all of the 3 million plus dollars left to purchase a 5 million dollar piece of land. Then more funds would have to be poured in for building the range (buildings, infastructure, etc.) or will could use the rest of the bond money for the greater good and create several parks we all could use.

  14. Agree Dano. When I voted for parks, I envisioned (along w/small percentage of others) shooting ranges, demoltion derby tracks, and heavy metal concert stadiums. I’m annoyed by the snug people who want a place to exercise and “experience” nature. I say: Go watch Animal Planet on a treadmill.

  15. If that’s what you think it means to be a nonprofit, then you should educate yourself before trying to participate in a debate over one. Until then, there’s no point.

  16. non-profit organization

    non-profit organization Definition: An incorporated organization which exists for educational or charitable reasons, and from which its shareholders or trustees do not benefit financially. Any money earned must be retained by the organization, and used for its own expenses, operations, and programs. Many non-profit organizations also seek tax exempt status, and may also be exempt from local taxes including sales taxes or property taxes.

    The citizens of Hays County are the shareholders.

    The notion that this project will create a revenue stream is simply false. Having served as an officer for a local nonprofit I have first hand knowledge on how one works. Dano, I believe you’re the one that needs to be educated on the facts, not me.

  17. Pingback: QUOTE CORNER - San Marcos Local News

  18. “We’re wanting them (Hays County Commissioners) to go ahead and make an offer on the whole piece of property,” Marlow said. “The idea is, hey, this owner is willing to negotiate.”

    This group also wanted the land in between the runways of the San Marcos Airport, to shoot- for free. Really smart! That bond money was not passed to support free follies of a private group. A “non-profit” group establishing an “income stream” for the benefit of taxpayers? If this is such a good deal, let the private sector put it in. Wish they would go somewhere and get happy, on their own money.

  19. So the standard that you are holding this project to is that you think it should generate a revenue stream not just to sustain itself, but also for the City’s coffers?

    Last I checked, there isn’t a park or recreational facility in town that generates revenue for anything other than it’s own operations….and other than the activity center, I can’t think of one that even does that. Most parks end up being a drain on City resources because of their inability to generate any revenue whatsoever. Yet your argument against the shooting range is that it won’t add to the City’s bottom line? Kind of a double standard, don’t you think?

  20. So is the river frontage across the river from 3 Dudes Winery & Spring River Estates? That would be nice to be able to put in at the Lions Club and pull out at this new park. That would be a nice, long float vs pulling out at Rio Vista (which is sort of a premature pull out in my opinion). Looking at the Google map it seems to be a very large tract, surely large enough to accommodate shooting and a river related park. Hopefully the shooting will be away from the river where you won’t have to hear it.

  21. For those of us that are within earshot of the prospective gun range, and we are many, the thought of gunfire noise is a great concern. Also, imagine padding down the beautiful San Marcos River and listening to what sounds like a military engagement. For us, and those coming to paddle and enjoy the San Marcos River while staying at the local campgrounds, the persistent sound of gunfire will greatly reduce our quality of living. Honestly, is there anyone out there that thinks living next to a gun range would be a wonderful opportunity to enhance their family living?

    Bob, every public bridge that crosses the San Marcos River is a public put-in and take-out. There are five bridges between I35 and Martindale, in addition to three private campgrounds for more access. That’s eight access points in 11 miles of river. That’s more than any other river system I know of in Texas.

    Happy Thanksgiving to everybody.

  22. Dano it’s as if you didn’t even read the article. what I’m saying is nonprofits by law can’t provide the county a revenue stream. If you would have read the article you would have seen that this “nonprofit” is claiming it will pump revenue directly into the Hays County coffers. Simply put, a nonprofit can’t do that. I understand that a range could help grow other businesses (hotels, cafes, etc.) but that’s not what this discussion is about. It’s about all the promises that the gun club is making that are simply false.

    “TxSSC Vice President J.B Kolodzey told POSAB members that the shooting sports complex is conservatively projected to return $50,000 to the county in its first year of operation, before full build-out. Kolodzey said the facility will return about an additional 15 percent more each year thereafter until full build-out. According to TxSSC officials, the shooting sports complex will generate approximately $400,000 net revenue after full build-out, which could take three to four years.”

    Any profit the range makes would have to be pumped back into the range, not Hays County.

  23. Need to point out one small issue with the article. I have not been on the POSAB for almost 2 years now but yet I am quoted several times in the article. I was not at this meeting so you do the math I really doubt I asked any questions. As I am still the Chair of the San Marcos Parks and Recreation Advisory Board I would appreciate a correction and the right person quoted.
    Thanks Stephen Sundquist

    “Just doing simple math, if there’s $3.4 million available, you can do seven projects right now,” said POSAB member Stephen Sundquist to TxSSC members. “I just did the math. Seven projects out of the 12 for $3.4 million, and you’re asking for all of it. I’m not saying I’ve scored anything, but I’m just saying by doing simple math, we can do seven out of the 12 projects for $3.4 million, so why is yours more important than the other seven?”

    Immediately after Sundquist’s question, one proponent of TxSSC’s project spoke up from the audience.

    “How much money is going to come back to the county from those other seven (projects)?” the audience member asked.

    Responding to Sundquist, TxSSC representatives said their project is, in a sense, three projects due to the inclusion of the wetlands, shooting ranges, and riverfront park.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

:)