Mountain & Trail News

    Texas Parks & Wildlife Saves Park from Proposed Housing Development

    In 2008, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) bought a 2,912-acre property known as Fortress Cliffs Ranch in the Palo Duro Canyon in northern Texas. Even though TWPD wanted only 900 acres, but the owner wasn’t willing to subdivide and TPWD didn’t want housing developers to take advantage of the land, said Ted Hollingsworth, the director of land conservation for TPWD.

    “We were competing with buyers who would have probably carved up the cliff face and our park visitors would have been looking at houses when visiting the park,” Hollingsworth said.

    Knowing they wouldn’t keep about 2,000 acres of the land to begin with, the department finally approved a buyer this week. Sooter Ranch Ltd. will buy 2,014 acres of the property that will have strict restrictions for conservation’s sake. When asked what Sooter will use the property for, Hollingsworth said he believes it will be Sooter’s family’s private cabin and get-a-way locale.

    Original press release issued by Texas Parks & Wildlife on March 29th, 2012

    The Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission has approved a real estate deal that calls for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to sell 2,014 acres of the state-owned, 2,867-acre Fortress Cliff Ranch, while retaining roughly 850 acres to expand Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

    Under the sales contract, Sooter Ranch Ltd. will pay $2.4 million for the property that includes a modern ranch house, roughly 1,500 acres of grassland and mixed brush, a side canyon and a quarter mile of the canyon rim.

    TPWD, working with the Trust for Public Land, acquired the valuable ranchland overlooking the almost 29,000-acre park in a dual transaction straddling several years ago primarily to protect the state park’s view shed.

    The sales contract mandates that the purchased property be placed under a perpetual conservation easement held by TPWD to ensure that the land’s important wildlife conservation values are protected and to protect views from the park of seven miles of the canyon rim that had been targeted for possible development into small, canyon-front home lots, Ted Hollingsworth, TPWD’s land acquisitions program manager, told commissioners Thursday.

    TPWD determined through the use of computer modeling and site visits to map park views that the portion of the ranch being sold did not contribute significantly to the mission of TPWD or the state park. TPWD also evaluated recreational access and public use options in making the determination. The retained acreage will be integrated into existing resource management and the park’s public use plan one day is expected to allow visitors to hike from the canyon floor up to the rim to enjoy the spectacular views.

    “By selling much of the Fortress Cliff property to a conservation buyer, the agency is staying true to its original stated intent and plan to sell the ranch house and uplands at a future date to protect the cliffs and the park’s view shed, and make the best use of our limited funds,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “The sale proceeds will allow us to acquire high-priority state park property elsewhere in Texas.”

    The Fortress Cliffs property, formerly Tub Springs Ranch, is located about 15 miles southeast of Amarillo in Randall and Armstrong counties.

    Photo: Robert Hensley (flickr)

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