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Acreage Acquisition is Strong Possibility
Thanks to the efforts of the Student Government Association and Sam Houston State staff and administrators, the university may soon be receiving a 345-acre tract of land to aid in off-campus activities.
Members of the SGA traveled to Austin on April 2 to testify before the House Committee on Land and Resource Management in support of House Bill 266 which would convey the land from its current owner, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, to the university. State Representative Dan Ellis authored the bill.
The land is on the southeast corner of farm road 980 and State Highway 19, about 14 miles from the SHSU campus. It includes about 2.5 miles of shoreline, depending on water level, and has an appraised value of $640,000.
The land was used primarily as a recreational area for TDCJ personnel and for gravel excavation. Located on the property are cabins, restroom facilities, a well house, a fish cleaning shack, and a pavilion, which are all in need of repair. None of the buildings are currently being used.
TDCJ has willingly offered the land to the university, but before any such transfer can occur, the State Legislature must approve the conveyance. If passed the bill would take effect on September 1, 2001. Upon receiving the land, the university hopes to make the necessary improvements needed to ensure safety of the property and its components.
The SGA feels it is important to "increase the competitiveness of SHSU with other universities...that have outdoor facilities that are used to recruit students to their respective colleges." Statistics indicate that students who participate in some type of orientation camp improve their university's retention rate by 10 percent to 14 percent.
If the land is received, it would be managed by the Department of Recreational Sports and used for activities such as archery, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, camping, challenge courses, mountain biking, hiking and bird watching. Recreational sports has been active in planning for the acquisition and its use for more than three years.
The land could also be available for retreats, EXCEL or Transition Track programs leadership training, continuing education programs, spirit and community activities, fundraising events, and science labs.
"At the legislative level, this is the biggest project the SGA has undertaken," explained Kimbrell. Student government leaders been working on the bill since this past fall.
The SGA will speak on behalf of the students when the bill goes to the Texas Senate. If a concurrent filing occurs, the bill will pass and then be sent to the governor for his approval.
"I am very confident that the bill will pass this session," said Jason Warren, SGA Speaker of the Senate. "There are no negatives to SHSU having this land. It could only be an asset to an already fine recreational sports program and the university as a whole."
Thelma Douglass, vice president for Student Services, expressed her thanks to the Student Government Association for taking an active role in supporting House Bill 266 because of its potential benefit to SHSU students.
"In my eight years at Sam Houston State University, I have seen two of the finest student leaders, Ms. Amanda Kimbrell and Mr. Jason Warren, provide excellent leadership in legislative issues that are applicable to SHSU," said Douglass.
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