EL PASO, Texas - Families of the Chamizal and Segundo Barrio gathered in front of Bowie High School and City Hall to express environmental concerns and protest the looming demolition of the school's historic baseball field by EPISD in order to build a bus hub and maintenance center.
Community members have expressed their outrage against the project ever since its proposal. Because construction will require the demolition of the W.C. "Nemo" Herrera Memorial Baseball Field, students and family members are asking the city of El Paso to intervene.
Bowie's baseball field, named in honor of the baseball coach who led the Bowie Bears to win the 1949 Texas state baseball championship, is considered historic among community members. And EPISD spokesman told ABC-7 the district is in the process of replacing it with a modern and lighted field that, "will better serve the student athletes at Bowie." The new file is being built between the football stadium and school.
On Tuesday, protesters held signs that read, "We Deserve Clean Air" and "Environmental Racism," echoing further concerns allegedly associated with the project.
"The Bowie bus hub would be detrimental to not only the children's lives, but the community as a whole," said Cemelli De Aztlan, who protested the potential environmental impact of the hub may have.
A recent scientific study commissioned by Familias Unidas del Chamizal and Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid shows that the bus hub's construction could endanger the public health of students, based on the potential of increased emissions the hub may bring to the area.
"The environmental commission determined that the Chamizal district is exceeding in ozone levels, and so the impact of busses and cars that this bus hub will bring will only exasperate conditions," De Atzlan said.
According Familias Unidas del Chamizal, the city of El Paso zoning ordinances would not permit a transportation facility, such as the one proposed by EPISD, to be built. However. EPISD claims it has exemption from the city, arguing the state of Texas grants exemptions only if the proposed project furthers education and does not endanger the public health of the students.
In a statement, a district said, "EPISD has done air quality, soil and water tests and each of those show we comply with all environmental requirements. Our buses will run on propane which have close to zero emissions. The Central Hub will not have the environmental impact the organizers of the protests continue to state."
Familias Unidas del Chamizal counter this claim, alleging the school district has not conducted scholarly studies to determine the existing possibility of any harm or impact by the projects actions. The groups claims the only information produced by EPISD regarding the matter, an argument that buses would reduce air pollution by 60 percent for carbon monoxide or to "near zero particulate matter emissions," are numbers from a website for light duty cars. Therefore, they argue the district has not true scientific backing, as the information is not true for busses.
Members of the organization and community are asking local, state, and federal authorities to investigate EPISD's project and enforce land development regulations against the school district.
"We are demanding that the city may enforce their codes and protect the communities of Chamizal and Segundo Barrio, protect the children, protect the students; stop the Bowie bus hub."