Posts Tagged ‘fences’

Mile after mile, nearly every parcel of land in Texas is fenced off to the public. With the exception of the many open Gulf beaches, almost all waterways and lakefronts are privately owned and unavailable. A fisherman or photographer, and I am both, on foot is going to have a difficult time anywhere except when paying for State Park access, and much of that is crowded and very limited.

In addition, nearly all rural acreage is owned and fenced farmland or portions of vast ranches. If you want to bird watch or photograph a sunset without a road in the scene, you are often forced to trespass or be limited to state parks.

According to Texas A&M’s Natural Resources Institute, “Texas has a long history of private land ownership where 95 percent of the state is privately owned.” That means that 255,166 of its 268,596 square miles is private property. The state has leased a little over 1,500 square miles from landowners to allow, for a fee, hunting, fishing, photography and equestrian activities. That equates to about 1/2 of 1% of all Texas land, and can necessitate a guide to bring you to, and through, the proper acreage.

Fenced ranches in Texas are HUGE. According to wideopencountry.com, “the combined square footage of the 10 biggest Texas ranches reaches over four million acres or nearly 7,000 square miles.” That’s an average size of 700 square miles EACH. The majority of ranches in Texas range between small ranches of 2,000 acres to those of 20,000+ acres.

Alas, Texas is not unique in citizens successfully blocking public access to desirable land. In two hundred miles of New England coastline, we found only a dozen or so state beaches, all expensive and tourist-packed, and little other public access. If you want an iconic photo of waves crashing on a Maine cliff or of an eagle nesting in a seaside strand of trees, you need a boat. Trying to find public beach or shore access on almost any lake in New York State is a fool’s errand. In Florida, beach access proponents have sharply criticized a new state law as “privatizing the state‚Äôs most valuable resource and undermining the tourism-based economy.”

This is not the case, at least not to the same extent, on the west coast. There are hundreds of miles of Pacific coastline where you can literally park on a shoulder or other parking area and walk down to the beach or over to a clifftop view of the Pacific. Almost all freshwater lakes are accessible, though some require local or state fees to enter, without private lot upon lot of lakeshore. There are many Texas- and New-York-like exceptions, however.

Thus far, in more restricted states on the East Coast or in the South, including Texas, when not in a lakeside or coastal campground, I’ve had to park near bridges or overpasses and walk a considerable distance to take photos of lake or ocean views. In the West and much of the Northern States, these opportunities are everywhere.

We have stayed in a campground on Texas’ Lake Tawakoni on numerous occasions. This lake boasts 200 miles of shoreline covering 37,879-acres, but, in exploring all the roads around the lake multiple times, the only other access to the water we could find is in the State Park.

So, what’s the answer? There isn’t one, at least without a grass-roots outcry. Sadly, as long as the wealthy want to own the most desirable views and have unlimited access to water, there isn’t much hope for change. States could begin purchasing some of this scenic lands within their borders and convert them to public resources, but that has yet to happen in any meaningful way.

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