AUSTIN – Despite a growing outcry over the loss of Texas parks, Gov. Rick Perry’s office appears to have worked aggressively to facilitate the auction of 400 acres of state park land, according to documents obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The property is at Eagle Mountain Lake near Fort Worth and has become the subject of intense interest by several residential developers.
The governor’s proposal would set aside several gas well drilling sites on the land, and the auction would guarantee that only a fourth of it remain green space, according to e-mails and documents obtained through the state’s open-records law.
“This is a terrible deal for Texas parks,” said Luke Metzger, an advocate with the Austin-based Environment Texas. “Clearly, the governor’s office is talking out of both sides of the mouth. On the one hand, Governor Perry says he wants to create a world-class parks system, but then behind closed doors he’s pushing to develop and drill this natural treasure.”
A spokeswoman for Perry has said he wants the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the General Land Office to develop a plan for the property that best suits the state’s needs. Kathy Walt denied that the governor’s office pushed any plan or made recommendations for the site.
Perry and Texas lawmakers have come under fire for shortchanging the parks department, which in recent years has reduced park operations, ordered staff layoffs, and contended with inoperable or deteriorating equipment.
The department bought the 400 acres at Eagle Mountain Lake in 1980. But in December, after the state land office declared it an unused resource, Perry’s office authorized its sale. As a condition, Perry’s office stipulated that the parks department retain proceeds from the sale and the mineral rights.