City to purchase 366 acres of land near Castner Range for preservation

Castner Range in Northeast El Paso (Credit: KFOX14)

The City of El Paso will spent about $3.5 million to preserve several acres of open space near Castner Range.

The city will acquire 366 acres of land, 72 of which will be donated and 14 will be dedicated to the city through a plat.

“Preserving open space at the foothills of our majestic Franklin Mountains is an important investment in our future. It allows our beautiful desert environment to remain in its natural state for scenic and recreational purposes, and helps to balance land preservation and development,” Mayor Dee Margo said.

City officials said the funds are a combination of monies approved by voters in 2012 for the preservation and stewardship of El Paso’s natural areas for the public and wildlife, as well as money from the public service board dual purpose fund.

“Our aggressive pursuit of conservation opportunities is another example of the progress we have made in executing initiatives our voters have said are important to them,” City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said. “Since the election, we have negotiated the largest open-space land acquisition in the city’s history, completed more than 60 bond projects and are getting dozens more projects shovel-ready.”

Neighbors around the land said they're thrilled the city intends to keep it as open space.

"As much as we can save, I think it's good for the city of El Paso and next generations to come and explore," Rick Armijo said.

Armijo called city council's decision a victory for El Pasoans.

"The mountain is El Paso," Armijo said. "El Paso's a beautiful place and the nicer we can keep it, the more people we can get to enjoy this."

Recently, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke put a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act, which became law in late 2017.

The provision protects 7,000 acres in the Franklin Mountains.

The range in Northeast El Paso includes historic sites that date back as far as 10,000 years, along with unique vegetation, wildlife and underground aquifers.

In recent years, there's been a strong community-wide effort to make the area a national monument.

The hope was that former President Barack Obama would make Castner Range a national monument before the end of his presidency, but in a decision made regarding five national locations, Castner Range was not among them.

More than 35,000 people signed letters to Obama asking him to preserve that land.

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