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

August 18th, 2010
Hillert Tract still sought for shooting complex


The Hillert Tract, outlined, in eastern San Marcos.

News Reporter

A nonprofit conservation organization that wishes to create what it calls a “river park, wet lands, and shooting sports complex” on the 563-acre Hillert Tract in eastern San Marcos will host a public meeting and offer a presentation Wednesday night at the Hays County Extension Office.

The aforementioned organization, Texas Shooting Sports Complex (TxSSC), proposes to use grants and donations to pay for the construction, operation, and maintenance of approximately 50 acres of roads, buildings, berms, fields, and gun ranges on the Hillert Tract, which lies between Staples Road and the San Marcos River.

Downrange safety and noise mitigation acreage requirements may require about a 300-acre buffer zone around range’s footprint, for a total of 350 acres devoted to range infrastructure. TxSSC proposes that the rest of the property be used for a Ducks Unlimited-designed wetlands area and a park with 2,000 feet of San Marcos River frontage.

“We want to model our shooting sports complex off of what is happening at the George Bush Park and the National Shooting Sports Complex in San Antonio,” said TxSSC Vice President J.B. Kolodzey. “No matter what happens to us, we want to do the best we can. If this land becomes available to us to lease, what we want to bring to the county is a first-class Texas shooting sports complex.”

On May 18, Texas Separtment of Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Education Director Steve Hall told county commissioners his agency may be able to channel $1.5 million in federal money during three years to help build the shooting sports complex. A survey of the Hillert Tract’s flora, fauna, and cultural/historical features is necessary before TPW will agree to fund construction of the shooting ranges with available federal funds.

“If the land is acquired and if Hays County and TxSSC comes forth with a grant application, I will be recommending that the agency postpone its third party competitive grant program until the TxSSC project is completed — which I’m hoping can be a three-year project,” Hall said in July. “But if the total funding isn’t there over three years, it may have to be a five-year project allotted for shooting range construction/development. Under the current level of funding of $300,000-per-year average, that is doable. Either way, I’m hoping to put on the board a $1.5 million project request matched by a half million from TxSSC/Hays County for FY 2012 through FY 2016 beginning in September 2011.”

Hall said he would like for the project to be considered a statewide hunter education training center modelled after similar projects in Utah, Arizona, and Illinois.

TxSSC proposes the county would own the shooting sports complex, including all associated equipment, buildings, all other improvements on the land, and collect all revenue generated from range usage fees. 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.

“We’re not asking the county for one penny to maintain this complex,” Kolodzey said. “We’re going to get it built with private money or donations.”

The county’s Shooting Sports Task Force (SSTF), charged in January 2009 with finding land for a shooting sports complex, went before the commissioners court in May to recommend that the county spend $5.5 million to purchase the Hillert Tract from the Anderson Group.

Kolodzey said Anderson Group may build 1,100 homes on the Hillert Tract unless the county buys it.

“You figure 1.5 cars per household, that’s about the average, each one of the cars would be coming and going at a minimum of twice a day,” Kolodzey said. “The traffic over there, and then all the impervious cover — what we’re asking the county to do is actually preserve a beautiful piece of property as open space.”

SSTF and TxSSC members say the Hillert Tract is eligible for parks and open space bond funds, approved by voters in 2007.

In a July 7 letter to the commissioners court, the Hays County Parks and Open Space Advisory Board (POSAB) said the use of parks bond funds to purchase the Hillert tract at $5.5 million “is not in line with the original intent of the parks and open spaces bond approved by county voters … However, the use of $600,000 on reserve for recreational projects may be appropriate.”

Since the aforementioned letter, POSAB has been tasked with creating scoring criteria for recreation projects, and the habitat conservation plan property for which commissioners were reserving most of the remaining bond funds has been chosen, though not purchased.

Taking into account a slew of recent parks and open space projects approved by the commissioners court, there would be approximately $1,630,746.56 left in the parks and open space bonds. However, negotiations for a $5 million expenditure to purchase of Nicholson Ranch property in western Hays County have not concluded. Further, the court may not allocate the full $1.7 million it recently reserved for improvements to Harrison Ranch Park.

On Aug. 11, TxSSC held a public meeting similar to the one it plans this week. Kolodzey said Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe (D-San Marcos) requested the meeting. The Hillert Tract lies within Ingalsbe’s precinct. Kolodzey said the county wanted TxSSC to notify residents near the proposed park and shooting complex of the project so they could attend the Aug. 11 meeting.

“We’re trying to be open and above board,” Kolodzey said. “They wanted to have public meetings, so we didn’t know how to get a hold of these people, we didn’t have their addresses, so there was six of us who went out and we hung 170 door tags, and we had a pretty good turnout — a far better turnout than we’d every imagined. It was very informative for us. People make us change. We want it, we want to know what the public wants. It’s not what we want. We’re trying to do this for Hays County.”

TxSSC President Stephen Marlow said the meet-and-greet will begin Wednesday at 6 p.m., with a presentation following at 6:30 p.m. The Hays County Extension Office is located at 1253 Civic Center Loop in San Marcos. A version of the group’s presentation can be found on its website.

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31 thoughts on “Hillert Tract still sought for shooting complex

  1. So I wonder how POSAB made the determination that allowing funds to be spent on aquisition of land for a county park at which a sport is conducted is not in pursuance of the “original intent” of the bond election ballot language?

    Does this mean that no park which receives any funding from that bond election can allow sports to be conducted there? I sure hope not. I think the County Commissioners should rely on the legal opinion of the County Attorney (rather than that of this POSAB group) regarding what the ballot language does or does not say. That is of course, unless POSAB is staffed with (or at minimum had engaged) legal counsel qualified to provide the County Commissioners with an opinion letter regarding what the ballot language either did or did not allow. From the article, it appears the Commissioners have relied upon their advice. I am very concerned now, that if POSAB is staffed with qualified legal counsel, and they are correct in their opinion letter, that Hays County citizens now can’t even let their kids play ball at park located within the county, if it is or was in any way, funded with monies derived from the 2009 bond election. Can we just get our thirty million bucks back?

  2. 5.5 million Times NO! If there is such a great need, let free enterprise finance it, including the land necessary for such a complex. Use of public funds can surely be put to better use than for this vocal and irrational minority of our citizens.

  3. Chuck, the POSAB has never supported this project.
    In fact they were unanimous in opposition of the Court using parks bond monies for the shooting range. In fact, many of us believe too much money has already been misappropriated by the Court and has not been spent with any adherence to the language of the bond.

    I resigned as Chair of the Parks Board in June, and this is why. The Court has been using the Parks Board as political cover to do what they want. This is especially true of Barton and Conley. There has been little transparency, and deals made “on the side” all through this process. I became very frustrated and finally ‘snapped’. I have better things to do with my time.

    The Parks Board is made up of a group of smart qualified passionate folks who have worked hard to try and make good choices and responsible recommendations to the Court, attending more than 60 meetings since the bond was passed. We have been systematically ignored.
    USFWS, by the way, will not take the County seriously in terms of our implementing our Habitat Conservation Plan if we don’t bank some serious acreage, and I would go so far as to say we can kiss the HCP goodbye if this shooting range goes forward with bond/tax monies.
    I will fight to the death any future county parks bond that is not tied, in no uncertain terms, to a specific project and purpose.

  4. “…what we’re asking the county to do is actually preserve a beautiful piece of property as open space.”

    But there intent is to survey the land, tear up the flora to create shooting ranges and build buildings, as well as large earth berms to mitigate noise and stop projectiles.

    I’m a shooting/hunting enthusiast and I can smell the lie in “preserve a beautiful piece of property.” I don’t know about y’all but I don’t want any lead projectiles near the San Marcos river, or any park for that matter.

    I sure as help hope my tax dollars don’t go to pay for this unnecessary tract. I’d rather see it spent on something that benefits EVERYONE in Hays/SanM.

  5. “’d rather see it spent on something that benefits EVERYONE in Hays/SanM.”

    You mean like soccer fields and tennis courts? Oh wait, not everyone benefits from those either.

  6. SMPD once used an old gravel quarry in the neighborhood as an impromptu range–just shooting into the cut bank. My guess is that HCSO used it too. The City was forced to do an EPA mitigation and cleanup of very significant size and $$$$. Just FWIW.

  7. If you don’t like to shoot, fine. If you are opposed to the range for ecological reasons, then fine. But please don’t try to sell us on the “spend it on something we can all use” line. It’s tired and it means nothing unless you can cite an example of a passtime that 100% of the population participates in. By your logic, Rio Vista was a waste since not everyone swims, and any walking or bicycle trails would be a waste since not everyone hikes or bikes. All recreation activities are “special interests” to some extent….

  8. Again

    Dear Hays County Commissioners,

    Please do not waste our parks bond money on this project.

  9. this is a complete joke people! have you seen this property in question? a beautiful piece of property is giving it more credit than it deserves. Don’t you think they’d have sold it many yrs ago if it was so “beautiful”? There’s a cemetary on the property that has grave stones dating back to late 1800’s.

    i think the shooting complex is a great idea, personally. But don’t make the citizens of hays county pay for it. Sounds like there are many other avenues that they can get some money for this project. I do agree it would be a good thing for this county, but at the tax payers expense? i don’t think so….

  10. @ ericDano:
    Did I say anything about soccer fields or parks? I mean like roads we all drive on, enforcing the actual laws in place, reorganizing our zoning. I’m not the one trying to “sell an idea” for anyone.

    Everyone out on the internet thinks their opinion is best- “well their’s isn’t, mine is” type attitudes get us these special interest projects (and unfounded comments). I understand HCSO and SMPD need a firing range, but do like NBPD and CCSO do (use the private one, built by private funds and supported by private dollars; they just have a side range they rent and use). No need to waste more of my tax dollars on it- I already pay for their ammo, salary, fuel and weapons. Let their firing range come out of the budget we give them.

    If private citizens want to shoot, then open up a privately operated, public shooting range without my effin’ tax dollars going towards it, then having to upkeep it and mitigate it’s other hazards with my same tax dollars. At least I can use a park for free (though it’s maintained with my tax dollars)- I’d have to pay to go to a shooting range and would rather pay a private citizen (whose livng is made off of the range) then repay to use something I paid for- that’s as asinine as New Braunfel;s charging to park at Prince Solms park in the past (why should I when I own the park as a citizen?).

  11. I would much rather have a shooting complex out there than 1570 homes which is what probably gonna go out there if the shooting complex does not. Hmmm shooting complex or 1570 homes…. which one would be best for the river?
    Commisioners ! Please make this happen !!!!!

  12. Las, first off, the parks bond money can not go towards any of the things you listed as benefiting everyone.

    Second, I believe that the shooting range in question will be privately operated and paid for. This is a direct copy and paste from the article above. You must have missed this part!

    “The aforementioned organization, Texas Shooting Sports Complex (TxSSC), proposes to use grants and donations to pay for the construction, operation, and maintenance of approximately 50 acres of roads, buildings, berms, fields, and gun ranges on the Hillert Tract, which lies between Staples Road and the San Marcos River….“We’re not asking the county for one penny to maintain this complex,” Kolodzey said. “We’re going to get it built with private money or donations.””

  13. What everyone should remember about the shooting range task force folks, is that they will say anything and present it as an iron-clad fact to make their case. There is no partnership with the City, not even a proposed partnership.
    They have NO money for the proposed “privately owned and operated” facility. None. Show me the donations, grants, partnerships, contracts, ect… to back up all these crazy claims, and we can talk.
    No money, no transparency, no deal.

  14. Chris the guy ( his name escapes me at the moment) from Texas Parks and Wildlife has said publicly on three different occasions that I recall that the shooting range WILL get a grant from them…. Just sayin…

  15. I hope this project works out. Shooting, to some folks’ dismay, is a sport. Just like soccor, softball, football, biking, etc. Please remember the young child in Kyle who was accidently shot and killed a few years ago by someone target shooting in their backyard. What if there had been a shooting sports complex this shooter could have been practicing in rather than their back yard? May have saved a kid’s life? Never know. This county needs a place for recreational shooters to go. On top of that, many events can be held at this facility bringing in visitors to Hays County who stay in our hotels, shop at our stores, eat in our restaurants, and tell their friends/family about our community.

  16. Great Terry, put it in your back yard and listen to it as often as you want, but don’t put it where it bothers anyone who doesn’t want to be bothered. What is wrong with letting free enterprise determine if there is a need rather than continual allocation of taxpayer dollars? There is no such thing as free state or federal money, ultimately it is our money from taxes and user fees that is required to fund the never ending desire for “things”. While a grant is great, the money came from somewhere, and that is our tax money. Why not just open up the police range a couple of days a month and let folks come shoot out there? Have a good one.

  17. Ms Duran, P&W doesn’t know when this will happen so how can they promise funding? They don’t know what their budget will be when it happens, so how can they promise funding? Bottom line, words are meaningless, show me the money. Not to mention, if the cash comes from P&W, it’s TAX dollars.

  18. Opening the police range is an interesting idea. Is that something that is done elsewhere? Is it possible/practical? Is that range large enough? On the surface, it seems like that could help generate some revenue for other police programs/needs.

  19. I did a quick search and didn’t have too much trouble turning up some police ranges which are open to the public.

    Maybe that idea warrants further investigation.

  20. Winchester… I agree… What I said is that it has been stated publicly on three occasions that I know of.

  21. P&W cancelled Expo this year due to funding cuts, so, again, I’ll believe it only when I see the money, until then it’s an empty promise. You know, the check is in the mail.

  22. Once again, Winchester is “on the money.” Much of which it seems will come from the public and go to a “private and/or publicly-funded” entity–a sort of “people’s project” that seems fail-safe. If one squints. I knew a locaql group once that proposed a first-class range for SM and Hays County, which have long gone begging. Never happened because they “just couldn’t make the numbers work.” Perhaps we’ve found a solution?

  23. parks and wildlife suspended the expo for 3 yrs last yr due to economic hardship. This is the 2nd yr that it’s not going on. I personally am very sadden by this. i feel it’s a great service they provide for the youth in our community to get them out of the house and excited about nature.

    as a hunter education instructor for parks and wildlife, i think we do need some sort of facility that the public can access. If the police would open their range up a couple of days a wk, i think that would fulfill the requirement.

    But as a whole, using tax payers money on this project is not a good idea. If we don’t have the money, then we don’t have the money. i guess the county is interested in using the credit system or something.

    To whom responded before about the track housing on the property. If it was feasible, it would have be done already. This isn’t such a great location for a subdivision…..These investors who own it would have flipped it yrs ago….

  24. Pingback: QUOTE CORNER - San Marcos Local News

  25. we need this like we need another “Classic Garage” or like the “luxury” condos beig built on WonderWorld. Why not put it to the citizens and vote on it. Democracy right? Oh wait political favors always outweigh the voice of the people:(

  26. Mr. Q
    RE: Classic Garage- Well, I tend to support private enterprise (w/some regulations to protect existing neighborhoods and the river and without my tax $.) I’m not sure why you threw in Classic Garage, unless I’m missing something…

  27. Mr. Q, if you want to see the results of direct democracy for policy as you describe, take a good, hard look at California. They are in the situation they are because of ballot issues. While I agree that there are issues of external forces clouding the judgement of elected officials, ballot issues bring their own shortcomings such as mob mentality and self-interest at the ballot box. If you don’t like the decisions your local elected officials are making, then do your part to elect different ones (or more than your part and help campaign/run yourself).

    I’m also having trouble following your logic on Dick’s Car Museum and the apartments/condos at the corner of Wonder World and Hunter. I don’t believe either of those involved use of government financing tools or bond money, though at least one of them used a Planned Development District (PDD) to alter some development standards.

  28. Sorry it was early in the morning when I wrote this. I guess my point was these are things that( I think) we really don’t need here. I don’t own a gun, but if people want em OK. But I shouldn’t have to fund a project, that it seems here, that citizens don’t want to fund either. As far as Dicks and the luxury condos, well those are political favors $$, the same thing that is going on here. I think you can agree to that. I don’t care about Calf. issues. We seem, as a society, to always ask why or why not others are doing, but yet we still learn nothing from others mistakes or our own. City(s) will alter PPD if the price is right. Yes I understand taxes and so forth. I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around how this city (council) will bend to developers against the voice of the people or maybe it’s just me. @cws as far as elected officials, it’s all about the $$ you know that. Beaware of small men with big ideas. So you can rattle my cage all you want but I still think these are not necessary. But I guess San Marcos needs to either lead the way or catch up.

  29. I keep hearing about a car-load of existing and proposed Advisory Councils, Boards, etc. Then I hear that they (see Transportation, Parks and Open Space, as examples) offer advice counter to the Wisdom From On High, and are either ignored, re-constituted (Neighborhood Advisory Council) or disbanded outright. Have I been napping, or are you just s***tin’ me? This even happens when the Boards and Advisories are packed with BFF’s? And should I really believe the same thing is happening with City Staff members, of whom, just take a look at the most recent long list of early departures…?

    May just be that the wrong people are being ignored or dismissed. Or that the “little people” are just too busy having their little lives to watch or to care. After all, their role is merely to foot the bill for The Ideas of Others. Whom, of course, we trust implicitly, having elected them to represent our community interest?

    I wonder with Bob Dylan: “Some-thing is hap-pening here, And you don’t know what it i-is, Do you, Miss-tah Jones?”

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