Image: Major Thoroughfare Plan Map, 2016, from Houston-Galveston Area Council, showing extension of Gosling Road north as a 4-lane, 80 foot right-of-way road, through the middle of the W.G. Jones State Forest immediately north of F.M. 1488 extending from the current Peoples Road. Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley is on the Policy Council which determined to include that Gosling Road extension through the State Forest in 2016.
Conroe and Magnolia, May 17 – Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley, who is one of the Policy Council members of the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC), decided in 2016 to extend Gosling Road north from the current intersection with State Highway 242, its north terminus, to Peoples Road and then, at F.M. 1488, to plow through the W.G. Jones State Forest to extend the road at least all the way to F.M. 2854. The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, confirmed the plan with three HGAC officials who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from Riley and Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, who has also pushed the plan.
In reality, the HGAC Major Thoroughfare Plan Map 2016 (at the top of this article) shows the extension, so that such confirmation from HGAC would not be necessary. The reason this newspaper troubled to confirm the plan is the misleading manner in which Riley instructed the HGAC program officials to draw it to make it appear as though the Gosling Road extension immediately north of F.M. 1488 would not go through the State Forest by drawing white instead of the green revealing the true parameters of the State Forest. A comparison of the extension with the Google Map of the current area of the State Forest reveals that the extension will, in fact, plow through the middle of the State Forest, as Riley has approved it.
Riley did not return telephone calls for comment throughout the afternoon yesterday. His electoral challenger, noted conservative author and former two-term Comal County Commissioner Greg Parker, said, “I do not support the extension of Gosling Road through the Jones Forest. I think it’s important that we maintain that forest for future generations. Obviously, the people of Precinct 2 have already spoken on this issue when they made clear in early 2017 that they don’t want to see development through the Jones States Forest.”
In response to a plan possibly to develop a portion of the Jone State Forest, on April 9, 2017, 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.
While Senator Creighton is not “DC” in Austin, because he listens, apparently Precinct 2 Commissioner Riley has brought a slice of “DC” to Montgomery County, because he doesn’t listen and intends to proceed with plowing through the Forest.