The possibility of an ATV park on the west side of Salt Creek has nearby residents and property owners worried about property values, privacy and interference with area wildlife.

This possible ATV park has no relation to the park planned by the city on the east side of Salt Creek other than general proximity.

“Obviously, I’m worried about the impact of the park on the value of my land and my peaceful life in the country,” said property owner and retired teacher Hester Bender at the May 8 city council meeting. “Many others will be concerned about the noise and large clouds of dust that will impact downtown and Spivey Hill.” 

At the previous two council meetings’ public forums on April 28 and May 8, three different property owners voiced concerns about a grant the city requested from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) for $235,500 to fund the creation of an ATV park.

“I’m going to have signs all along my fence line here. I’m going to put a lot of signs that say ‘no tresspassing’ and ‘keep out,’” explained Ermino Neverez while standing at the fence line that separates his 103 acre plot from the city’s land earmarked for the new park.  

Nevarez said he has three major concerns with the park.

“Number one, the privacy,” he said. “I won’t have the privacy out here anymore. Number two, the environmental part of it. The wildlife will be gone from here. There are a lot of deer through here, there’s wild hogs out here and all of that will be gone. The most important thing of all, our taxes will go up. They’ll say ‘no, we got a grant for this,’ but who’s going to maintain it? That grant is not going to pay forever.” 

Childress City Manager Bryan Tucker wrote the grant application with the blessing of the Graham City Council after he presented them info about the positives a park like this brings such as tourism dollars spent on gas, hotel rooms and dining. If the grant goes through and the city determines this is something they want to move forward with, Tucker’s company, Jachin Construction, may be contracted to design the park.

Tucker is familiar with the grant process because it is one he has already gone through to get an ATV park built eight miles west of Childress.

Bobby Sanders, co-owner with Tucker of Jachin construction, manages the ATV and motocross park in Childress and sits on the committee that TPWD uses to grade the grant requests it receives for this program. The Recreational Trails Program Advisory Committee is a nine-member board that takes all grant requests and grades them, the highest graded projects get the funding as available.

Sanders will be available for questions at the public meetings, he said, but refused to comment further on the record until that time.

Steve Thompson, off-highway vehicles program director for TPWD, explained that nearly every member of the board has a connection to some project up for grant money, and those members serve in an advisory capacity when the board is considering a grant they have an interest in and leave the room while that vote is held to grade that grant. Sanders did not vote on the Graham application, said Thompson.

The outcome of the grant request will become public on May 22 when the TPWD Board of Directors meets in Austin to finalize requests. If the grant goes through, the city will then move forward with a process of a preliminary design for trail location followed by a public meeting to seek input on the design, explained city manager David Casteel, adding that the city would then analyze public opinion and perform environmental analysis if needed. 

“Then we would refine the design,” he said. “All along the way we would coordinate with council and the public. There would be several decision points along the way to decide to keep going with the project or not.”

It is at these meetings that citizens will have the opportunity to voice concerns, ask questions and show support for or against the park.

Read the entire story in this weekend's Graham Leader.