by Jenny Coyle
Waco Puts Brakes to "Mini Indy"
The Sierra Club's Two Rivers Group in Waco, Texas, just defeated a $40 million
riverside "Mini Indy Grand Prix" that originally included race cars, go-carts,
boats, video games, miniature golf and a water park. Not bad for a group that's been
around only four years.
The group teamed up with residents of an assisted-living center on the Brazos River.
"We were all concerned about the general noise, habitat destruction and light
pollution of this project, not to mention the additional traffic it would bring,"
said group Chair Bruce Allen. They also argued that it would mar the natural experience in
nearby Cameron Park, a 430-acre wooded city park that attracts mountain bikers from Waco,
Austin and Dallas.
Allen and others worked with organizer Jennifer de Garmo in the Texas/Arkansas field
office to prepare a strategic plan based on the Sierra Club Training Academy formula.
First the group convinced the editorial board of the Waco Tribune-Herald that the project
would do more harm than good for the community. Then they organized the public to flood
the newspaper with letters to the editor. Next they bombarded Waco City Council members
with letters, e-mails and phone calls demanding that they deny a special use permit needed
for the project. Finally, they got 150 people to show up at two public hearings.
The council denied the permit.
"It was made very clear to the city council that this beautiful river setting and
the natural areas in the region are an important part of the Waco area's identity, and
that all citizens, environmentalists or not, hold that precious and don't think it should
be degraded," said Allen. "A lot of people were pleased to see that the
environmentalists won one, and that the democratic process worked."
Salt Plant Nixed; Reprieve for Whales
In a sudden and unexpected turnaround, the Mexican government and the Mitsubishi Corp.
announced in March that they'll scrap plans to build the world's largest salt-extraction
facility at San Ignacio Lagoon on the Baja Peninsula - the last pristine mating and
calving ground for the Pacific gray whale.
The Sierra Club's International Committee opposed the project in 1998, generating
letters to the salt facility's sponsors, and many Club activists - especially in Southern
California - sent postcards and letters to Mitsubishi Corp. and the Mexican government.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and International Fund for Animal Welfare organized
a Mitsubishi boycott and disinvestment campaign in California.
"But the main share of credit goes to the Mexican environmentalists whose
opposition put them at considerable risk," said Judy Olmer, chair of the Club's
Marine Mammal Subcommittee.
Olmer said that in justifying the sudden backdown from the project, Mexican President
Ernesto Zedillo pointed to a United Nations study that said a project of the scope
outlined would transform the area's unique desert landscape and damage its integrity.
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