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New rules designed to save courthouse lawn

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

In a decision designed to save what is left of a once green expanse, Bandera County Commissioners have relegated the use of the complex's front lawn to nonprofit organizations only.
Events and activities approved for the front of the courthouse include the Christmas celebration that takes place the first Friday in December; the Easter celebration, sponsored by the Bandera County Christian Fellowship; Memorial Day activities, which include the Funtier Days Arts and Crafts Show; Celebrate Bandera; Veterans Day; and the National Day of the American Cowboy - when it is not held at the Frontier Times Museum on 13th Street. Other events, including the monthly Market Days, will be moved to the back of the courthouse and paved areas around the courthouse.
For years, events regularly took place on the front lawn; however, nearly constant use - coupled with an unrelenting drought - have taken a toll on the once grassy area. "Our sprinkler system has been destroyed," said County Judge Richard Evans on Thursday, Jan. 23. "So, I'm letting the court decide what can and cannot be held there. I'm tired of being the bad guy."
To a question from court participants, Evans said the sprinkler system would probably not be re-installed because he felt it inappropriate to water the grass. However, he didn't rule out sprucing up the area a little.
"The front of the courthouse is the focal point of the city," Evans noted. "People like to take pictures from the front steps. It looks bad right now, but we could plant some buffalo grass and make it look better. I think we need to do it."
According to the website www.nativegrasses.com, buffalo grass, a native grass, "... survives on some of the toughest areas and is drought resistant, curly, and low growing, fine in texture, surviving in hot and cooler temperatures. It was the only source that could be utilized by the early farmers who built their 'sod' homes from the cut sections of the acres of grass growing on the plains."
To clarify the court's proposed position, Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King noted, "If for-profit groups request to use the area, they'll be put along the perimeter on the pavement, on the triangle of lawn in the back or where the old jail was."
"And Market Days vendors will be moved to the perimeter," Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes said.
Noting that the court had already denied use of the lawn to one for-profit group, Evans said he would have to offer them space in the designated areas in the back.
On Jan. 9, Evans brought a request to the court by Cedar Creek Nursing & Rehabilitation Center to use the front lawn for vendors in association with an open house and anniversary celebration at the facility on Montague Street. "I have a problem with private enterprises using the courthouse lawn to promote their businesses," Evans said. "But we must be even-handed. It won't be my decision. It will be the court's."
At that time, Grimes noted, "If we open the lawn up to one private enterprise, we'll have to open it up to all."
At that time, commissioners unanimously denied the request, but postponed action on further public use of the courthouse lawn until the meeting on Jan. 23.
At the second meeting in January, commissioners asked County Attorney Janna Lindig to draw up a boilerplate contract for all groups - both nonprofit and for-profit - to sign that would include a liability release.
"And, no matter what groups are involved, no vehicles will be allowed on the county lawn," King said.