History

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Acquisition

U.S. Government acquired 3,500 acres of land that presently forms Castner Range (also—henceforth—“Castner,” “the Range” or “CR”).

1926

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Addition

An additional 4,828 acres were purchased and added to Castner. From 1926-1941 numerous live-artillery gunnery ranges were constructed and used on the 8,328-acre Range.

1939

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Weapons Firing

CR was extensively used for weapons firing, but all firing ceased in 1966, as the City of El Paso had grown up around the southern and eastern portions of the Range in the neighborhood long known as “the Northeast,” where many retired military live.

1926-1966

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Construction

Construction begins through the Franklin Mountains on what is now Transmountain Road, a part of TX Loop 375 which will encircle the city. (As of 2016 it encircles ca. 85% of it.)

1967

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Construction Complete

Transmountain Road completed, dedicated, and opened up to traffic.

1969

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“Excess”

The Department of the Army reported to the federal General Services Administration (GSA) all 8,328 acres of Castner Range as “excess.” The Army then conducted a surface sweep of a 1,230 acreage portion of the Range on which it thereupon furnished a statement of clearance of OE (‘ordnance and explosives’). The City of El Paso simultaneously surface-swept a near-by 17-acre CR parcel. The GSA then conditionally accepted the Report of Excess and agreed to proceed with disposal actions when notified that decontamination of these 1,247 acres had been accomplished by the Army or the City and were certified by the Army. The 1,230 acres—all lying to the east of the US 54 Patriot Freeway—were then conveyed to the City of El Paso. (A “Certificate of Clearance [of OE]” was issued by the GSA on June 18, 1974.) Throughout the ‘seventies the City sold portions of the east-of-the-freeway land to developers for housing, commerce and industry; other portions were sold to the El Paso Independent School District, the El Paso Community College and the University of Texas at El Paso. The City retained some of those 1,230 acres for parks and a future stadium. The rest of the Range’s land—the 7,081 acres lying west of the freeway—were retained by the Army. (See “1983” infra.) The status of the east-of-the-freeway 1,230 acres remains that of FUDS (‘Formerly Used Defense Site’).

1971

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Re-structure

Then-El Paso Congressman Richard White (TX-16) forms an ad hoc committee to study the disposition of the 7,081-acre remainder of Castner Range. (Henceforth “Castner” will refer exclusively to those west-of-the-freeway 7,081 acres unless otherwise indicated.)

1971

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Master Plan

The City of El Paso’s Castner Range Master Plan is published.

1971

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Ad-Hoc

Ad hoc committee’s Castner Range Development Plan is published.

1972

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Museum Lands

The 17-acre “museum lands” (now home to the City of El Paso’s Museum of Archaeology and the private Border Patrol Museum) were conveyed from the U.S. Department of the Interior to the City of El Paso under the Lands-to-Parks program. (Earlier—in 1971—these 17 acres had been transferred from the Department of Defense to the Department of the Interior.)

1975

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Communication Tower

Mike Bilbo and others discovered Dick Knapp (the owner—with brother Bob—of most of the Franklin Mountains) bulldozing the top of North Franklin Mountain to prep the land for yet another communications tower. A mass meeting was quickly organized by Gerald Fitzgerald and LeBron Hardie. About 15,000 people signed a petition asking City Council to obtain state-park status for the Franklins. Lengthy and complicated negotiations ensued for the rest of the year and into 1979.

1978

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FMSP

Thanks to the efforts of then-State Representative Ron Coleman, the State of Texas HB 867 was signed, creating the Franklin Mountains State Park (FMSP).

1979

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Texas SB 1273

Led by the efforts of then-State Senator Tati Santiesteban, State of Texas SB 1273 was signed into law, adjusting the FMSP’s boundaries.

1981

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Castner Disposition

LeBron Hardie et al. submit to El Paso Congressman Ron Coleman (TX-16) their recommendation on Castner Range disposition.

1983

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Not Disposable

GSA returns the 7,081-acre Castner Range to Fort Bliss as “not disposable” due to OE, thereby voiding the 1971 declaration of excess (q.v. supra) for all 7,081 acres.

1983

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Disposition Adopted

The Wilderness Park Coalition (WPC) adopts position on the disposition of Castner Range (“convey all land north and west of proposed Magnetic-Diana connector to the FMSP”).

1985

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Name Change

WPC changes its name to “Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition” (FMWC).

1985

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Maintenance Yard

FMWC learns that TxDOT proposes a 10-acre maintenance yard be located in the middle of Castner Range (Sec. 36) alongside Transmountain Road (Loop 375).

1986

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Maintenance Yard Moved

TxDOT agrees to relocate the proposed maintenance yard to Sec. 3 in the far southeast corner of Castner facing Hondo Pass Drive.

1986

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Cohen Stadium

Cohen Stadium proposed for central Castner (Sec. 31, west of US 54 Freeway) on Transmountain Road.

1986

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Disposition Reaffirmed

FMWC reaffirms position adopted March 1985 on disposition of Castner Range.

1987

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Cohen Stadium Site Relegated

Cohen Stadium site relegated to the eastern side of the US 54 Freeway (its present location) on some of the 1,230 acres transferred to the City in 1971.

1987

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Surface Cleaning

Then-U.S. Rep. Ron Coleman authors a $1.15-million provision in Fiscal Year 1994’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to begin surface clearance of OE from Castner. Technical studies by Fort Bliss and Corps of Engineers personnel ensue, and actual clearance activities commence subsequently.

1994

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Unexploded Ordenance

Additional field investigations for UXO (‘unexploded ordnance’) characterization are conducted on 569 acres of Castner.

1995

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Sports Arena

El Paso Mayor Larry Francis proposes that a sports-concert arena be located in the middle of the Range (Secs. 31, 36). This proposal is opposed by the FMWC and is abandoned.

1996

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Further Investigation

Further field investigations of 467 Castner acres for UXO characterization.

1997

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No Mining

Conveyance of [Texas] General Land Office mineral rights in the FMSP to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, ensuring there will be no future mining in the FMSP.

1997

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Transfer Recomendation

Parsons (“Parsons Engineering Science, Inc.” [Pasadena]) submits the Ordnance and Explosive Characterization and Cost Analysis Report. Quote: “Recommended that the entire [Castner] site be transferred to the State of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for an annex to the Franklin Mountains State Park.”

1998

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Video

Production of the first Castner Range video.

2000

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Preliminary Assestment

Preliminary Castner assessment as part of the Military Munitions Response Program.

2003

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High-Tech Office Center

REDCO (‘Regional Economic Development Corporation’, a joint City-private venture) publicly proposes to build a 2,000-acre “high-tech” office center on the eastern or flatter 28 percent of the Range’s 7,081 acres.

2005

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High-Tech Opposition

FMWC holds a series of public meetings to discuss REDCO’s plans for Castner. An FMWC petition opposing REDCO’s plans initially draws 5,000 signatures.

2006

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Castner Preserved by City Council

Unanimous City Council Resolution: All 7,081 acres of Castner Range be preserved and not developed.

2006

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Looking for Support

The FMWC presented a petition with over 10,000 signatures to then-El Paso Congressman Silvestre Reyes seeking his support to preserve Castner Range.

2007

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MMRP Inspection

Military Munitions Response Program (MMRP) Site Inspection plan for Fort Bliss was submitted to the US Army Corps of Engineers.

2007

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Wide Area Assesment

The U.S. Army and contractors conducted a demonstration of Wide Area Assessment (WAA) technologies that seek out and characterize the presence of munitions on Castner Range. Frequent WAA meetings open to stakeholders were held.

2009 – 2013

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Work Continues

Military Munitions Response Program (MMRP) undertaken. Various Technical Project Planning (TPP) activities and meetings held during the same time period. “Pursuant to the [MMRP], Castner Range underwent a preliminary assessment in 2003 and a site inspection in 2007, which recommended further characterization of the site through a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS).” (Oct. 7, 2009 letter from Keith Landreth, Chief, Environmental Division, Directorate of Public Works, Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas)

2011 – present

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Grant Obtained

Congressman Reyes secured—in the 2011 NDAA—a $300,000 Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) grant to study ways of implementing a conservation conveyance on Castner Range. (See the next item.)

2010

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The 4Cs

The “4C’s” (‘Castner Conservation Conveyance Committee’) was formed to undertake the tasks mandated by the $300,000 grant (q.v. supra). The 4C’s initially consisted of nine members from the boards of directors of the FMWC and the Frontera Land Alliance, the El Paso area’s only 501(c)3 land trust organization. After the death of one member, the remaining eight carried out all of the 4C’s many projects through the end of the grant in September 2015.

2010

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Permanent Preservation by El Paso County

El Paso County Commissioners’ Court unanimously passed a resolution in favor of permanently preserving Castner Range.

2010

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Permanent Preservation by Texas Senate

A Sense of the (Texas) Senate Resolution supporting preservation of Castner Range passed unanimously. A Sense of the (Texas) House Resolution supporting preservation of Castner Range also passed unanimously.

2011

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Final Version of 4Cs

The final version of the 4C’s Conservation Conveyance Report for Castner Range, Fort Bliss, Texas (iv, 91 pp.) was published.

2011

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Sam’s Club

Wal-Mart Stores announces plans to construct a Sam’s Club on the 12-acre commercially-zoned property located on the southeast corner of the US 54 Patriot Freeway and Diana Drive. This FUDS land is part of the 1,230-acre Castner Range land that was transferred to the City of El Paso in the early 1970s. With the construction plans approved in the spring of 2013, the intensive clearing of the property begins and the “Club” itself was opened for business in 2014.

November 2012

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Land Conveyance

Congressman Reyes authored “Land Conveyance, Castner Range” legislation. (V. the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, NDAA Section II, Log ID 12115.)

2012

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Castner Land Use Plan

Final version, 4C’s Castner Range Land Use Plan (v, 94 pp.) published.

2013

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Feasibility Study

As part of the MMRP, the U.S. Army and contractors have been conducting a Remedial Investigation (RI) of Castner Range that leads to the undertaking of a Feasibility Study (FS) of the Range and of ways to deal with its OE.* (See footnote, bottom of page.)

2014 – Present

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4C Video

The 4C’s produced a 9:47 minute video “Conserving Castner Range” in English and, separately, in Spanish.

2014

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Video Showcase

An event hosted by the FMWC and the 4C’s was held at El Paso’s Chamizal National Monument to showcase the video

2015

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Urge to Become a National Monument

The El Paso County Commissioners’ Court unanimously approves a Resolution urging that Castner Range be dedicated as a National Monument.

November 2015

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Castner Range National Monument Initiative

U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke (El Paso, TX-16) convenes a meeting of the 4C’s in the El Paso Community Foundation’s “Foundation Room” to announce that henceforth he’d be supporting the 4C’s grassroots effort, as would the Community Foundation itself. The effort is renamed “the Castner Range National Monument Initiative” to reflect the goal of obtaining national-monument status for the Range.

November 12, 2015

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Resolution Signed

All six members of El Paso’s State of Texas legislative delegation sign a Resolution urging that Castner Range be dedicated as a National Monument.

December 2015

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Seeking National Monument Status

Congressman O’Rourke files HR 4268, seeking National Monument status for Castner Range.

December 2015

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El Paso Water Utilities Approves Resolution

The Public Service [governing] Board of the El Paso Water Utilities entity unanimously approves a Resolution urging that Castner Range be dedicated as a National Monument.

January 2016

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City Council Approves Resolution

El Paso’s City Council unanimously approves a Resolution urging that Castner Range be dedicated as a National Monument.

January 2016

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10,000 Signatures

Annual Poppies Fest is held with record numbers of residents showing up to support Castner Range. We announced 10,000 signatures.

April 2, 2016

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State Park Visitor Center On Hold

El Paso Inc. shares that the State Park Visitor Center is on hold. Read More

August 15, 2016

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25,000 Signatures

We celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service by announcing 25,000 signatures of support.

August 25, 2016

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*”The Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) represents the methodology that the Superfund [CERCLA] program has been established for characterizing the nature and extent of risks posed by uncontrolled hazardous waste sites and for evaluating potential remedial options. The RI serves as the mechanism for collecting data … [T]he FS is the mechanism for the development, screening and detailed evaluation of alternative remedial actions.” (From website http://www.epa.gov/superfund/policy/remedy/sfremedy/rifs.htm

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