A Prairie Mis-Fire

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Posted January 3, 2007 by Static in News

Nobody can accuse Jarid Manos of dreaming small.

When he and his Great Plains Restoration Council found out about the 2,000 acres of prairie near Lake Benbrook, their first thought was to save the property, one of the last remaining sweeps of North Texas prairie large enough to act as a wildlife ecosystem, from development.

Saving the property, if it happens, will be a major accomplishment, since the General Land Office is insisting that somebody come up with $21 million or so to repay the state for the value of the land, bought for the Permanent School Fund.

But Manos doesn’t stop there. Having come through his own trials and tribulations to emerge on the other side and build a life of health and eco-activism, he figures the world can bygod change as much as he has. He envisions the Prairie Park as merely the first step in a chain of developments that would bring Fort Worth into the eco-city movement, connect the park to a system of trails and other parks, give birth in the old Queen City of the Prairie to a center for the study of prairie culture, and “make Fort Worth a destination for prairie restoration.” The park proposal has drawn unanimous support from Tarrant County commissioners as well as from several other officials – very important, because Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson had set a Dec.31 deadline for Manos and his group to gather evidence of public support for the concept. Several other agencies, landowners, and investors are interested in taking part.

So the hole that the Fort Worth City Council shot in the prairie schooner in late December didn’t just wound some li’l ol’ park – gosh, we can plant a couple of benches and a puny tree or two just about anywhere, can’t we, and call it a park? – it threatened to take the wind out of the sails of one of the more exciting proposals for this city that Static has heard in a long time. After council members – and Mayor Mike Moncrief – expressed strong support for the park in a pre-council meeting a week earlier, several of them – and, big surprise, the mayor – somehow lost their, how you say it, cojones, when the resolution of support came up for an actual vote.

Certainly Manos felt blindsided by the council’s action. The ostensible reason for the turnaround was concern that the park would somehow get in the way of the Southwest Parkway, which will cross the property. But park supporters have never fought the roadway and, in fact, have been making plans for wildlife underpasses and hiking-trail overpasses to deal with it.

So, as is too often the case at city hall these days, the public is left to wonder Who got to Whom.

Manos, however, is undaunted. His group just received a $90,000 grant from a charitable foundation to work on the park and related projects. A local real estate developer has offered to match contributions made toward buying the parkland. Manos is working with “a big national nonprofit group” to win additional support. He’s even offering the local gas-drilling robber barons a way to salve their consciences, by contributing to an endowment for the purpose. And he’s hoping that when the council reconsiders its decision next week, it will add Fort Worth, actual home of the park, for cryin’ out loud, to the list of supporters.

Otherwise, maybe they should add “city council members with integrity” to the list of endangered species in this area.


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