Christmas Mountains Now Open To Big Bend Visitors - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

04/10/08 - Austin

Christmas Mountains Now Open To Big Bend Visitors

The Christmas Mountains (file photo). The Christmas Mountains (file photo).

Jerry Patterson, Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, announced today the Christmas Mountains are for the first time open to hikers and campers visiting Big Bend National Park.

On Wednesday, Patterson sent Big Bend National Park Superintendent Bill Wellman a copy of the permanent easement he has granted, allowing public access via the mile-long contiguous boundary with Big Bend National Park.

"With our easement, the Christmas Mountains are open to Big Bend National Park visitors," Patterson said. "It's exactly the same access that would be allowed if the National Park Service owned the tract."

State ownership has one major difference: Guns are allowed in the Christmas Mountains. "Imagine that - accessible through Big Bend, yet it protects Texans' Second Amendment rights," Patterson said. "As long as I am Land Commissioner, the Christmas Mountains will be open to the public."

Still, Patterson noted, the rugged terrain would likely prevent visitors from taking in the spectacular vista of Big Bend National Park from the tallest peak of the Christmas Mountains. The peak can only be reached via an old jeep road that cuts through private property.

Patterson has directed his staff to work with members of Congress and National Park Service officials to eliminate the barriers to transferring the tract to federal hands.  He reiterated that the property needs a long-term federal funding commitment for care and maintenance and a designation that will respect the Second Amendment and allow public hunting.

Patterson stressed that his aim in selling the land was to accomplish the goals of the original gift: To preserve and protect the Christmas Mountains and open them up for appropriate public access.

For more information on the Christmas Mountains, including the April 7th permanent easement and the original conservation gift deed, visit the Texas General Land Office Web site at www.glo.state.txus.

Cathryn Khalil, reporting. ckhalil@kltv.com

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