Weatherford Democrat

August 18, 2013

GUEST COMMENTARY: Local action led to river bill’s passage, naming of section after John Graves

Weatherford Democrat


Local action led to river bill’s passage, naming of section after John Graves


As we said goodbye to John Alexander Graves III on Aug. 10 in Fort Worth at the age of 92, we are reminded that he was ageless. His legacy, as the author of “Goodbye to a River,” “Hardscrabble Farm” and other works, lifts him beyond the ordinary and endears him forever to the hearts of his fellow Texans.

The history of the Brazos River, the famed “Rio de los Brazos de Dios” (so named by Spanish explorers as “The River of the Arms of God”) is the stuff of legends. John Graves appreciated its lore and beauty and wrote lovingly of its lure. The Brazos River imprints our souls. We grew up on its banks swimming, fishing, and dreaming. Today, new generations still flock to the river to camp, picnic, float on tubes, canoe, fish, and for a renewal of spirit.

We owe John Graves a debt of deep gratitude for capturing that spirit, crafting a story for all to read. The Weatherford Democrat newspaper article noting John Graves’ passing recently stated, in tribute, that the State of Texas passed Senate Bill 1354 that halted the operators of rock quarries that were polluting the river.

The 79th Texas Legislature did pass the bill June 17, 2005, designating a portion of the river from Possum Kingdom Lake Dam to Lake Granbury as the “John Graves Scenic Riverway.” The Legislature also established a pilot program for enhanced protection of the watershed threatened by quarry activities.

This success was preceded by hard work, long hours and private and public funding by a group of Texans who love the Brazos and were angered by its destruction. Complaints of river pollution began in 2003 and the Brazos River Conservation Coalition was formed in 2004 in the Mountain River Community on the Brazos near Soda Springs. This organization began a campaign of letter writing, telephone calls and on-site presentations with local, state and federal officials to document the visible damage to the river. Friends of the Brazos, another river advocate group, soon joined forces. This was a grassroots effort, funded in part by a $5 membership fee along with private and public donations.

This effort included aerial photographs from private aircraft graphically depicting the mud, sand and debris washed into the river as a result of the removal of the top rock layer by quarry operators. The long-term damage is still evident as muddy sandbars have increased and islands formed in the riverbed, now covered in vegetation that has altered the river’s natural flow. An oil-based mud has taken the place of the former gravel base in many areas. What was clear-flowing water with deep pools and a minimum of clean sandbars is now shallow and muddied. It will be years before the river recovers completely.

Credit should be given to the organizations and people involved in forcing the passage of the senate bill. Among those are Dr. John Calder, Dr. Tony Goodwin, pilot Ted Friddle, Sandy Wilkins, all residents of the Mountain River Community, eminent Weatherford Democrat columnist Larry Jones, multi-generational Brock resident, friend and staunch supporter Alice Walton and the members of the Granbury chapter of the BRCC formed in 2006, Charles and Dominique Inge, Clark and Barbara Goodwin Lantz and Dr. Joshua Rosenfeld.

Tony Goodwin and Larry Jones met with John Graves at his “Hardscrabble Farm” in Glen Rose and asked his approval for the designated portion of the river to be dedicated and titled “John Graves Scenic Riverway” when the bill passed. Mr. Graves was pleased and honored by the recognition. He gave the river its voice and that voice will carry to future generations as a reminder to cherish, preserve and protect our natural resources.

The Senate Bill No. 1354 can be viewed in its entirety online as Texas Senate Bill 1354.

Louise Moore is a resident of Millsap.