In 2005, a group of concerned citizens was successful in protecting a stretch of the Brazos River. Senate Bill (SB) 1354 guards a 115-mile portion of the river flowing through Parker and Palo Pinto counties, designated as the John Graves Scenic Riverway.†
Fast forward to 2013, the 83rd session of the Texas legislature, and the Friends of the Brazos River (FBR), a non-profit organization that plans to petition lawmakers to extend the protections enacted almost a decade ago.
First the organization called on local officials, asking for continued support before taking the item to Austin. At a special meeting Monday, Somervell County commissioners considered a request from Friends of the Brazos to extend the scenic riverway through Somervell County, where its namesake lives today.
In his book, "Goodbye to a River," Graves documents a canoe trip down the Brazos in 1960. At the time, Graves envisioned the river being dried up and lost to future generations.
More than five decades later, the efforts of the Friends of the Brazos include continued preservation of the waterway and fights to protect it from pollution and degradation.
In 2009, commissioners supported the organization through the signing of a similar resolution. County Judge Mike Ford told the court Monday the county had not reneged on its support, but the organization was asking currently seated officials, which includes two commissioners who were sworn into office Jan. 1 - Kenneth Wood and Larry Hulsey - †to renew the resolution as they prepared to fight for further protection of the river.
Commissioner James Barnard recalled a telephone call in 2008 from former State Rep. Sid Miller from the House floor, asking if supporting the preservationists' effort was what the county really wanted to do.†
Ed Lowe, FBR president, told the Reporter resolutions were passed locally as well as in Hood County in 2009. He said while state officials initially supported the effort to extend the scenic riverway, and were ready to introduce the bill, it appeared someone had persuaded them to reconsider.†
Miller reportedly said legislative interference could affect the permitting of gravel orchards and mining operations. And there appeared to have been a suggestion that such control could cause a negative economic impact and lead to the loss of jobs.†
Meanwhile, FBR has spoken with officials in Palo Pinto and Parker counties and found there have been no negative effects. So the group is ready to try again to extend the Jon Graves Scenic Riverway and see it as not only a way to honor the man heralded for shining a light on the plight of the river decades ago.
The revised resolution, which received unanimous support from Somervell County Commissioners Monday, spoke to mining operations that continue to threaten the quality of water flowing down the Brazos. Officials agreed that a number of the mining operations the non-profit group called a threat in 2008 and remained on the list were no longer operational.†
Still, Lowe said designating the local portions of the Brazos as a scenic riverway offer greater protection.
"Our real motivation is to do anything we can to protect the beauty of the Brazos River," Lowe said.