“If we do this right and there’s conservation, it makes [the buyer’s] project not just another [building], but sustainability for the landscape," Manos says. "There are very accomplished landscape architects. We can still use it in a way. [Rock Creek Ranch] is too priceless to lose. It expresses life like people don’t imagine, right in our own backyard."
Update, Tuesday 3:59 PM: The Texas School Land Board unanimously voted today to sell Rock Creek Ranch. There’s a buyer and a specific amount on the table, says Jim Suydam of the General Land Board, but details won't be released until the transaction is complete.
Our original post:
There aren’t many patches of tallgrass prairie left in North Texas. But one that spans 2,000 acres just south of Fort Worth goes up for sale on Tuesday.
Jarid Manos says stepping onto Rock Creek Ranch is like walking into a painting.
“Almost all the prairies in this country, in North America, have been damaged or destroyed," he says, "and to come across some place that is almost like biblically pristine, so effusive with life, you couldn’t imagine it.”
Jim Suydam, who works for the State’s General Land Office, says Manos's work was impressive, "but he doesn’t have $30 million.” That's how much the state hopes to raise from Tuesday’s sale.
“Jarid Manos is a very articulate and very persuasive activist,” Suydam says, so persuasive that in 2006 he convinced Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson to give him access to the land that had been behind closed gates. Since then, he’s taken schoolkids, scientists and government officials on prairie hikes. He also convinced the Tarrant County Commissioners to make a $1 million commitment for seed money.
But that seed hasn’t grown enough. The state's Suydam says the economy has picked up, and buyers are interested. Selling could mean big money for Texas schools.
“The school land board has a legal fiduciary responsibility to make as much money on their assets as they can," Sudyam says, "because that helps keep your local property taxes down. And nobody’s stepping up to say, 'Tax me more so we can buy that property out there.' ”
So the prairie, which is already cut in half by a highway being built, will probably be developed instead of preserved. And Jarid Manos's dream of a national park in North Texas could be gone.