Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Marfa Public Radio, Hospitality Heroes!

The staff of Marfa Public Radio receives their Texas Mountain Trail Hospitality Heroes Award on June 2; presented by TMT Board Member Mercer Black and Executive Director Beth Nobles (photo by DJ Sanders)

Texas Mountain Trail is in the business of supporting and promoting travel to Far West Texas, with an eye to creating lasting experiences for visitors.  We also want to recognize folks in the region who do more than is expected, so earlier this year, we began our "Hospitality Heroes" recognition program.

This spring, our region was hit by high winds and fire, and the folks at Marfa Public Radio provided timely and accurate coverage allowing residents and visitors to get out of danger.  So at our June 2 launch party of the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail map, we were more than happy to recognize their work as "Hospitality Heroes."

Remarks by Texas Mountain Trail board member, Mercer Black:     

"On April 9th, a fire started just a couple miles west of Marfa in an abandoned rock shop along Hwy 90 a stone’s throw from the home of Rachel Lindley, one of the two full-time employees of Marfa Public Radio. And so, just like that, West Texas and the world was made aware of a spark made fire made wildfire in dang near real time.

Rachel’s husband phoned in from the house with a direct visual of the happenings. Marfa Public Radio General Manager Tom Michael made the necessary contacts with officials, Tom and Rachel went on the air, their crack shot team of vigilant volunteers mobilized, and we sat glued to our radios as the fire raced across northern Presidio county and entered Jeff Davis county, headed straight for our neighbors.

It was during this time that I think that I, not a crier, broke down the first time. Tom reported eyewitnesses watching AEP trucks driving up and down Hwy 17 cutting fences, trying to save cattle and wildlife. I was so thankful to know that someone was doing something, anything. And I was so thankful for Marfa Public Radio. When you sit a mere 25 miles away from your family knowing that there home and everything they have worked for is in such imminent and extreme danger, there really no explanation for the feeling of powerlessness. Marfa Public Radio gave me just a little bit of knowledge, a little bit of power. And that went a long way.

And then, in some cruel twist of fate, the radio went out. KRTS Marfa Public Radio FM 93.5 broadcasted dead air, as the fire reached the area around the station’s broadcast tower.
I think all of us had a moment of a panic, as our only source of reliable information had been ripped from us. And then, there was the collective AHA as we remembered KRTS’s streaming online feed. So many people flooded the “Listen Now” feature of the website, that Tom and team had to pull off a miracle on a Saturday afternoon – increasing the allowable streaming bandwidth so that all the eager people could tap back in to the news.

They did it. After a short period marfapublicradio.org was streaming live. Letting us know what roads were closed. Which areas were being evacuated. If we could get to our families and friends to help. For which of our friends and families’ homes it was too late. And, most importantly urging us all to use precaution, to remember that lives are more important than property.

A member of the Texas Mountain Trail board stated at our April meeting with much passion that it is her absolute belief that Marfa Public Radio saved lives during those first couple days of the Rock House Fire. There was unanimous agreement amongst our board.

Mind you that all of this was going on during the station’s Spring pledge drive, the main source of funding for this PUBLIC radio station. There was no mention of this. The KRTS team plugged on as journalists and as members of this community, saving lives, and giving us a little bit of power in a seemingly powerless situation.

It is for that reason that it is my great pleasure to present Tom Michael, Rachel Lindley and the many, many dedicated volunteers at Marfa Public Radio with the Texas Mountain Trail Hospitality Heroes Award.

Thank you, all. From the bottom of my heart and those of the Texas Mountain Trail board."
You can listen to Marfa Public Radio (93.5 FM) whereever you are--online at http://www.marfapublicradio.org/

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