Oct 18, 2013 5:59 PM
CORPUS CHRISTI - Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson on Friday announced he is placing a hold on a deal between the state and an environmental group for about five miles of seashore in Kleberg County.
The KRIS-6 Investigative team first broke the story earlier this week about the deal in which the Nature Conservancy would buy the land and then deed it to the National Park Service for inclusion in the Padre Island National Seashore.
News of the pending deal, which officials expected to finalize in 2014, angered some local leaders who said they had been given no information about it.
The primary concern among beachgoers and some Upper Padre Island leaders is whether the deal will restrict access to the beach and, particularly on busy weekends, lead to traffic snarls and other safety concerns farther up the beach.
The General Land Office and Nature Conservancy both have said the deal is good for the environment - the 3,600 acre swath of land is ecologiclly diverse - and public safety.
Texas General Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson on Friday said selling the land, which is part of the state Permanent School Fund but generates no revenue, is a deal that makes sense for Texas.
"The General Land Office works to make money for the Permanent School Fund," Patterson said in a prepared statement. "We're not the parks department. We don't have staff dedicated to managing large tracts of environmentally sensitive land like this."
He said the property, which is contiguous to the northern boundary of the national seashore, "has become a haven for lawlessness, including illegal hunting, dumping and other unsavory activities that prompted public complaints."
KRIS 6 initially reported that the sale could result in a beach closure but, after hearing from the General Land Office, agreed to say only that the sale could "signifcantly restrict access."
Patterson said on Friday that "public access must be preserved in order to consummate this deal."
Sources have said the seashore is planning to place traffic-restricting bollards - wooden posts - along the boundary line once the deal is complete.
Driving a car or light truck along a beach in Texas usually requires purchase of a low-cost beach permit, on an annual basis.
Driving on the Padre Island National Seashore is $10 per week or $20 per year. Walking or riding a bike costs $5 per week.
Vehicular traffic on the seashore has in recent years become a sticking point as environmental concerns over wildlife and habitat safety have come into play at the world's longest, undeveloped stretch of barrier island.
State lawmakers, including Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, will meet with state and local officials early next week to discuss the deal. KRIS-6 will be there.
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