April 21 Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

In an opinion piece I wrote in The Big Bend Sentinel last week, I argued against the construction of the Chisos Brewery on Alpine’s historic Murphy Street.

Because the piece was rushed, I did not discuss the backstory, including a potential conflict of interest: that I am a part-owner of the historic Hotel Ritchey on Murphy Street, just a block away from the planned brewery. Although the brewery could be seen as unwanted competition, in reality the opposite is true: I expect that the brewery would be good for all the businesses on Murphy Street, at least in the short term. My opinion piece focused instead on the long view, the long-term effects it would have on the area’s historical integrity in general and on Murphy Street’s eligibility for the National Register specifically.

What I did not say — but should have — is that I’m not against the idea of a brewery in Alpine, or even on Murphy Street. And in many particulars, I commend the Fielders: the outdoor space created, the use of native plants, recognition of dark skies, the onsite use of gray water, etc. What I take exception to is the scale of the project and the modern design which is completely out of touch with the local architecture. If the Fielders decided to build something that harmonized in scale or style with the rest of the neighborhood, then I would absolutely support it.

But another salient fact is this: the beloved Ritchey Wine Saloon and Beer Garden, as it was called, was forced to close during COVID, leading to bankruptcy. The Fielders purchased the property and had plans to demolish it because it did not fit with their plans. Fortunately, public outcry led them to change their minds and they sold it to a partner and me, for which they deserve credit. We, in turn, created an LLC with the sole purpose of restoring and maintaining the Ritchey in perpetuity for the people of Alpine. After repairs are complete, we plan to lease the space for a bar, not run it ourselves. Our primary interest is in maintaining the property as a historical community asset. 

I have only co-owned the Ritchey for a short while, but I have lived in the neighborhood for almost 20 years, and have long championed historic preservation. My reservations about the brewery relate to its impacts on the neighborhood and to broader concerns about gentrification. It is not competition I fear, but too much success: a quantum leap in the commercialization of Murphy Street and long-term changes to its character. My opinion piece was not meant to sow division but to spark honest conversations about community and development, about striking the right balance between businesses and neighbors, the old and the new, while honoring that intangible sense of place that makes Alpine and the greater Big Bend special.  

Thanks, 

David W. Keller

Alpine

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Dear Editor,

Thanks to all who aided in the support and response to the residential fire on Columbia Street early in the morning of April 9.  

In this particular incident, it was neighbors who were on scene first. Had it not been for the quick action of these neighbors, our community’s loss would have been far greater. 

We deeply appreciate the Marfa Police Department and Marfa EMS, Presidio County Sheriff’s Department, and the U.S. Border Patrol, who kept everyone safe at the site.  

As always, our friends and neighbors rallied to keep us firefighters hydrated, nourished and caffeinated. Our gratitude to the thoughtful and very welcome donations of food and drink.

The members of Marfa Volunteer Fire Department are honored to serve our community. We are repeatedly humbled by its generosity. 

Sincerely, 

Marfa Volunteer Fire Department

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Dear Editor,

Yesterday my husband and I visited the small park across the street from the Marfa courthouse. My mother, Mary Belle Mitchell, was involved with the construction of this park, and we’ve always enjoyed brief visits through the years. Yesterday, we were disappointed to see how much the park has been neglected and is in decline. I think the clean up and restoration of the park would make an excellent community service project for a scout group, Lions Club, history club, any high school service club, like National Honor Society. It has become an eyesore on a beautiful street. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Kerrlita Mitchell Westrick

Goodyear, AZ and Marfa, TX


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