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The Subtle Side of Texas
In a state where constant driving makes one oblivious to the nuances of landscape, a new trail system says, "Slow down and look."
By Jeffrey M. Chusid

The landscape of Texas tends to come in large pieces: the flat, expansive panhandle; the dry and dusty lands of west Texas highlighted by distant mountain peaks; the rolling, cedar-covered hill country of central Texas; the piney woods and bayous of east Texas; the blackland prairie of northeast Texas—each stretches for miles of similar vistas marked by subtle changes at creeks, rock outcrops, and river bottoms, along with the occasional dramatic canyon or sentinel tree. The unsympathetic hand of man, especially in the past few years of a rapidly growing economy and population, with endless big-box retail, parking lots, highways, and franchise food outlets being flung liberally across the state, does not help one to appreciate the Texas landscape. These hallmarks of auto culture flatten the modest variations and obliterate the many small beauties that are present within the physical structure of this vast state.

It is all the more surprising, then, to find in some of the new cities springing up around the state a concerted effort to remediate their own negative impacts on the land. Even more surprising—in a state where local rules protecting the land are often overturned at the next biennial session of the state legislature in the name of property rights—to find planning not just in a single community but also between communities. But it is part of the paradox of these new Texas developments that sprawl can sometimes accommodate regulation and planning in a way that is harder to achieve within existing cities and rural areas long since settled. Where planning is being incorporated within a new subdivision, and pre-existing property owners are not organized to complain to the Texas legislature about their loss of property rights, consensus is easier to achieve. And one can assume that new inhabitants are purchasing their homes with a tacit understanding that certain restrictions and plans are in effect.

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