A connection with dams, lakes and the impact reservoir construction has on lives runs deep in the memories of this reporter.
What a thrill it was for me to be in the crowd last week at the groundbreaking of Lake Ralph Hall, named for long-time Congressman Ralph Hall, a friend of my father in the early 1950s. My family ran a dairy farm and ranch in the Rowlett Creek bottom off Chaha Road, now Bass Pro Drive, on the water’s edge of Lake Ray Hubbard.
Hall served as Rockwall County judge back then, and he shared information with my father early on about the planned lake that would inundate 90% of our land, information not readily available at the time. In 1955, my family relocated to a 1,000-acre spread in Denton County directly behind the newly built Lewisville Dam. It would be 13 years later, in 1968, when Lake Ray Hubbard was completed. Thank goodness for those visits my father had with the county judge back in the day.
“We’ll go where I know they won’t be building another lake,” I remember my Dad saying.
All these memories about Congressman Hall, new lakes and my coverage as a journalist of both Bois d’ Arc and Lake Ralph Hall, the long permitting processes and the attempts by landowners to keep from losing their livelihoods flooded my mind as I sat under a huge white tent Wednesday morning and witnessed the first few scoops of earth placed on the Leon Hurse Dam.
It was a little further upstream of the North Sulphur in May 2005 when I participated in a media tour of the proposed lake site sponsored by the Upper Trinity Regional Water District. I heard first hand from environmental specialists and engineers as they performed preliminary work, visited with then Upper Trinity Executive Director Tom Taylor, the late Ladonia Mayor Leon Hurse and the area’s largest landowner, Jerry Lane of Remington Angus Ranch, now a Lamar County resident and board member at First Christian Church. On my way to the groundbreaking, I noticed Remington black angus cows still grazing in pastures soon to be inundated by the lake.
“I have mixed emotions about the lake,” Lane said then. “We love it here, but I am also a realist — they are going to build this lake, and we can find another place.”
I remember him glancing toward Taylor that day and saying, “I will look any of you in the eye and tell you, ‘it ain’t going to be cheap when you show up here,” Lane said about the acquisition of his land.
My most vivid recollection that day is talking with the late mayor as he sat on steep steps leading to a dry North Sulphur River bed at the Highway 24 bridge north of town (Ladonia Fossil Park) where years of erosion has enlarged a channel built in the 1920s to straighten the river and prevent flooding. Originally 20 feet wide and 10 feet deep, the channel is now more than 200 feet wide and 60 feet deep.
“With every rain, this thing just keeps getting deeper and wider,” Hurse said then. “It’s dry right now, but you should see what happens when it rains and water fills this thing up and shoots straight down stream taking our land with it.”
So many past interviews; so many memories came flooding back as I listened to speakers talk about how Lake Ralph Hall came to be. I will always be grateful to Congressman Hall for the advice he gave to my father years ago, but more importantly because of his heart for public service and for the people he represented. Lake Ralph Hall will forever be a reminder of the man who loved people and who loved his Fourth Congressional District.