Plans by the Texas Department of Transportation to develop the I-69 Trans Texas Corridor project from Laredo to Texarkana will obliterate the peace and tranquility of Camp Allen if the current route is approved.
One of the proposed routes for the more than $140 billion corridor goes up FM 362, the country road which passes in front of the diocese's 1,100-acre retreat and camp center one-hour northwest of Houston.
The project, which would cut the county in half, is designed to be 1,200 feet wide, will have eight lanes of traffic, rail and a pipeline.
"We need everyone in the diocese to let the officials in Austin know that we don't want this project destroying what has been built over the last 87 years," said George Dehan, president of Camp Allen.
Episcopalians are asked to sign an online petition before March 19 at http://http://www.campallen.org/
"When we invited about 30 neighbors to come and discuss the issue, more than 100 people showed up," he said. "It's hard to imagine that anyone who is familiar with the area or the programs at Camp Allen would suggest such a project," Dehan said.
People were turned away at the door after more than 1000 people showed up to voice their opposition to the plan at town hall meetings in Bellville, Waller and Huntsville. Dehan said they couldn't find one person in the room who was for the project at any of the gatherings.
"The TxDot plan does not seem to have exits in communities that would benefit anyone economically and there would still be no evacuation route from Galveston/Houston in the case of a major hurricane," Dehan stressed. "After TxDot stated in articles and in their plan that they were going to stay on major highways, they deviated from that by choosing FM 362. It is very apparent that the planners have never driven down FM 362 or have never seen Camp Allen. "The governor's office clearly has not done due diligence on what effects the corridor would have along this route," he said.
Camp Allen cannot be duplicated. More than 42,000 people use camp and conference center annually. The $50 million facility has significant infrastructure, a chapel that seats 1000, 51 buildings and is the third largest employer in the county.
"We want the project moved off of FM 362," said Bishop Don Wimberly, who has written to the Governor Rick Perry to express his deep concern. "There are 6000 school children alone who attend our Discovery Program each year, not to mention the 1,620 children who attend summer camp. Our guests represent every major university in the state, major healthcare facilities, and more than 170 churches from every denomination. People come to Camp Allen for retreat and renewal. It would not be impossible for Camp Allen to survive the building of the corridor or the aftermath of the project," Bishop Wimberly said.
Episcopalians are asked to go to http://http://www.campallen.org/ and ask Texas Gov. Perry to find an alternative route or take the no action alternative to not build the corridor at all. It is time now for Episcopalians to voice their opinion. Comments must be submitted by March 19 at or on http://http://www.campallen.org/ petition.
Camp Allen has received many responses to date, the following from "a concerned mother": "The impact of losing Camp Allen due to the I-69 Corridor would be far reaching. Not only have generations of families had the privilege to attend Camp Allen, but many of those children would not have been able to have a camp experience had Camp Allen not been there. The majority of summer camps in Texas are very expensive and out of reach for the middle class; Camp Allen is not only affordable, but there are also scholarships available to those who cannot afford the fees. To lose Camp Allen would affect generations of Texas children as well as have a ripple effect on their community. Statistics show that camp experiences expand a child's paradigm, promote understanding and good stewardship of our world, and, for many children, it is the only opportunity to experience a "world of possibilities", unknown and unavailable to them otherwise. These experiences help make a better citizen of tomorrow. Camp Allen is a vital resource to our community and the community at large and must not be lost."
This article has been reprinted with permission from the Texas Episcopalian, newspaper of the Diocese of Texas.