Local and state officials disagree over Bell County ranch - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |


Local and state officials dispute management of historic Bell County ranch

by Matt Johnson

KILLEEN - A disagreement between state and local officials on how the Parrie Haynes Ranch is being managed could lead to the sale of the historic Bell County retreat.

A proposed state bill that would transfer the trusteeship of the ranch is being perceived by local officials as a smokescreen for the ranch to eventually be sold on the open market and jeopardize its youth programs.

The County Commissioners are expected to approve a resolution Monday that would keep the ranch under the management of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, where it has been since 1993. The ranch currently works with Killeen ISD and Fort Hood to provide recreation for children.

Commissioners like John Fisher feel a recent proposed bill in the legislature will put youth programs, sponsored by the C5 Youth Foundation, at serious risk of being taken away.

"Many programs that occur at Parrie Haynes are open to the youth all over the state of Texas," said Fisher. "The C5 Leadership Program sometimes brings in students from other states, so it's important to not only our local community but also for youth all over the nation."

However, State Representative Will Hartnett, who introduced the bill, says when longtime cattle rancher Parrie Haynes passed away 1957, she intended for her land to be used to benefit only Texas orphans. The Texas Youth Commission became the trustee, and Texas Parks and Wildlife has since become acting manager.

"The community wants to use it as a park and trust law does not take into consideration the desires who are not beneficiaries of the trust," said Hartnett.

According to Hartnett, the ranch is being mismanaged and is not adequately servicing orphaned children.

The bill concerns Fisher, who says he has worked personally to ensure the ranch lives up what the late Mrs. Haynes would have wanted.

"It's being used to serve both underprivileged youth, as well as privileged youth, as well as educational purposes," said Fisher. "I believe that the usage of the facility today is more closely being used for its intended purpose that it ever has."

Texas Parks and Wildlife teamed up with Coca-Cola in 2002 to provide $2 million in facilities on the property that have been used by both Killeen and Copperas Cove ISD students during field trips.

In addition, those facilities service unprivileged students as a part of a growing number of programs organizers have coordinated.

Judy Parker is vice president of Friends of Parrie Haynes Ranch and is working with Fort Hood to provide a summer retreat for children who have lost parents in combat. She says this new bill all but guarantees the land will be auctioned off.

"If it's sold it will be developed, then it's gone for good, you'll never get it back," said Parker.

Hartnett says the sale of the land is possible down the road, but his priority is abiding by the law.

"What the community desires is irrelevant to the needs of orphans in Texas," said Hartnett.

Providing for orphans in the area has been a focus of the ranch in the past, although Fisher believes the way orphans are cared for has changed since the passing of Mrs. Haynes. He maintains all children should be able to benefit from the ranch, regardless of status.

"There are tons of opportunities as long as the facility stays in Texas Parks and Wildlife," said Fisher. "If we lose it to be sold to the general public, none of these options are possible."

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