Wilson will continue his fight against the sand mine
Russell Wilson’s Texas roots run deeper than the mighty oaks that grace his property in northern Atascosa County. He and his wife purchased the 40 acres on Old Applewhite Road in July of 2014, with plans to build their dream house.
A native of Ingleside on the Texas coast, Wilson has worked in construction since 1977. His career has taken him to Houston for 20 years, San Antonio and even dangerous locations overseas such as Iraq and Afghanistan for six years.
Approximately 10 years ago, they began the journey of window shopping for the ideal location for a ranch in the San Antonio area.
“A couple of times when I was overseas, I’d be home on R&R. One time we stayed at a little bed and breakfast over in Seguin and just drove around. We kind of started there and worked our way around San Antonio, to find the spot that we wanted,” said Wilson.
At one time, the whole 150 acres was for sale while Wilson was overseas. When Wilson returned and knew it was decision time to buy some property, Scott Smoot had purchased 110 acres of it. The Wilsons ended up buying the other 40 acres. Wilson was drawn to the beauty of the area.
“On this particular piece of property, the trees are gorgeous and that kind of sold me. It was on a dead-end road and wasn’t congested with a lot of homes. There is plenty of space and plenty of room.”
He was working for Guido Construction in San Antonio and starting building their house. He lived in an RV while his wife was teaching in Houston.
“She had one more year of teaching in Houston and I was going to finish up the house and then she was going to move over and join me.”
When he was halfway finished with the construction of the house, his wife fell ill and passed away. He finished the house in October of 2015 and moved in.
“I got me a couple of cows and a couple of dogs. It is a work in progress still.”
He recently had some loads of dirt brought out and will bring in some grass pallets to get a lawn going.
It was the winter of 2016 when Scott Smoot contacted Wilson and asked if he had heard a sand mine was coming in. Wilson was shocked.
“We purchased this land with a historical marker down on the corner. We never had any thought whatsoever that something like this would be coming along.”
Wilson started looking into it and digging further. He soon learned how huge it would be, as the total area of the site is 2,500 acres.
Wilson has two children, Julia and Joey. His daughter graduated from the University of the Incarnate Word in 2015 and married a week later. She currently lives with Russell, since her husband is in the military. In August they will move to Ft. Lewis.
His son Joey has served in the Navy for almost 20 years. He is stationed in Corpus Christi with his wife and two children.
Russell’s girlfriend is Victoria Davila, whom he met last year. She is a Gold Star wife, whose husband passed away.
Fighting the apathy
“I think that others think they are far away from it, but they are really not once you see the magnitude of it. If someone from Pleasanton drove to Brady and looked at what is actually there, they would be flabbergasted.”
He discussed the increase in truck traffic that results from such facilities. While in Brady for a weekend, he counted a dozen 18-wheelers parked at Wal-mart. When he drove out to the sites, he counted 25 trucks in a seven-eight mile drive. Coming back, he counted 15.
He and others with the concerned citizen’s group Not Just Dust- Bruce Rd. have held meetings since January and have spoken to the Atascosa County Commissioners and local city councils.
“We were telling them when one comes, more come and now... more are coming. I think there are five for sure.”
The majority are off of Highway 16, while one is off of Highway 281.
“They are like a bunch of flies swarming in.”
Wilson does not have any plans to move.
“I am still doing what I had planned to do. I’ve got a barn laying out there I’ll start putting up. I’ll be working on my yard, working pens for my cows. I haven’t changed any of the plans I originally made.”
He is going to wait and see what the overall impact is.
“Nobody knows what the impact will be on property values or if anyone will want to buy out here. No telling.”
Wilson does not know what to expect at the upcoming informational meeting that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is hosting this Thursday. Wilson said he has some tough questions for TCEQ.
“I’m not an expert in it, but it seems like the process is flawed as far as the permitting process. It seems like it is very easy to game the system. They just pretty much know what boxes to check and what blanks to fill in to get the results that they want to get. The equation is all made up of dollars and cents.”
The long-term impact on the environment and the community does not seem to be figured into this equation, shared Wilson. From what he has researched from what happened in Wisconsin and other states, they come in, excavate their product, sell their product then go away.
Another point he made is how proponents of the frac sand mine say it will bring in jobs. Wilson researched data on Preferred Sands and looking at info from their four sand mines, 62 employees per mine was the average. This is operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Of those 62 jobs, it had eight office-off the property people. Are those there or are they in Radnor, Pennsylvania?”
He discussed how the company wonders why they are so upset.
“They are taking away our quality of life. I worked for a long, long time to get here. I was very specific on how this is what I wanted to do. This is what my wife wanted to do. This is where I wanted to live for the rest of my life.”
He sacrificed alot, working overseas for 6 1/2 years. He was away from his wife, children and grandchildren in high-risk situations and projects.
Russell’s lineage goes back many generations to his great-great-grandmother, many times over, who was the only woman to get a land grant from the Republic of Texas. He has maps of the location from Rice University to downtown Houston. He worked on a project on Smith St. in Houston, not knowing it was named after his relative. Another ancestor was a senator of Texas, another was an early Texas Ranger, while another was a governor. He wishes his family still had that property.
“I sacrificed alot, and my family did, too, so we could have this little piece of property and enjoy it.”