Conroe, April 9 – State Senator Brandon Creighton (R-The Woodlands) told a vocal “Save Jones Forest” meeting, “A&M won’t advance with any use other than what we see there now” referring to the current use of Jones State Forest along F.M. 1488 in Conroe. In response, the crowded room full of people at the KC Events Center on F.M. 1488 gave Creighton thunderous applause amidst shouts of “yes,” “thank you,” and “good.”
More than 300 people attended the event which the group Save Jones State Forest organized to begin at 2 o’clock p.m. today. One of the group’s leaders, Amy Coffman-Welton, began the meeting, “We have one thing in common. We want to protect the forest…We want to protect our natural heritage.” Coffman-Welten explained that the organization was a grass roots effort that came together only one week ago. She explained the three goals of the Save Jones State Forest organization are (1) kill Senate Bill 1964, which Senator Creighton filed in the Texas Legislature on the last day to file bills for the 85th Legislative Session, and which, as written, would open the Jones State Forest to “private commercial use,” (2) not permit passage of any further legislation until Texas A&M University, which claims ownership to the land of the Jones State Forest, comes forward and engages in a community meeting to explain its plans for development of all or part of the Forest, and (3) to protect the forest as the group believes it was originally meant to be protected when the State of Texas established the land as a State Forest in 1926.
Cindy Burke, a board member of the East 1488 Community Association also spoke at the meeting. Burke noted that the State of Texas purchased the Jones State Forest real property in 1926 for $9,000 from the Estate of Colleen John. Somehow, Texas A&M University’s Forestry Department became the overseer and eventually owner of what began as “State Forest Number Two” and eventually became the “W. Goodrich Jones State Forest.”
Before Senator Creighton arrived at the meeting, the comments of Coffman-Welton and Burke were a bit critical of his filing of Senate Bill 1964. Coffman-Welton said, “Senator Creighton’s bill and the ensuing development of the State Forest will destroy our quality of life and bring unwanted traffic, drainage problems, and destruction of the green space around our homes.” She also noted, “Texas A&M University says that this property is their land, but they belong to the State of Texas, so it’s our land,” a comment which received thunderous cheers and applause.
Creighton arrived approximately 30 minutes after the meeting began. He received a warm welcome and applause, despite the criticism leveled as his proposed legislation before he joined the meeting. “This issue is at the top of the list. Your feedback has been great. We’re not DC in Austin, Texas, because we listen to you,” the Senator told the crowd. “I agree with your concerns that we need to know what Texas A&M University would like to see happen and then have a discussion with them in a public way.”
In response to a question from the audience, Creighton disclosed that Texas A&M approached him about filing the bill, which became S.B. 1964, because the University wants to build an Urban Forestry Education Center and engineering buildings right next to the campus of Lone Star College along State Highway 242 and intends to place those educational structures on part of the Jones State Forest.
Creighton acknowledged that there is still discussion about a “90-10 split” of the Jones State Forest, suggesting that there might still be a conservation easement for ninety percent of the current Forest land but allow ten percent of it – approximately 170 acres – to become the site for educational development. He also pointed out to the crowd that, while the majority want nothing developed at the Jones State Forest, “others still want a Texas A&M University campus in The Woodlands.” The crowd responded with loud shouts of “NO!”
This issue remains open, but Senator Creighton made a wonderful presentation to the group and showed that he is a good listener as well.