Texas Severs Group's 110-Year Management of Alamo

n this March 6, 2013, file photo, Dan Phillips, a member of the San Antonio Living History Association, patrols the Alamo during a pre-dawn memorial ceremony to remember the 1836 Battle of the Alamo.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas is taking over management of the Alamo, ending the Daughters of the Texas Republic's 110-year management of the site, according to a joint statement issued Thursday..

In a joint statement with the group Thursday, Land Commissioner George P. Bush said the General Land Office was taking over the day-to-day management of the downtown San Antonio mission-turned-fortress.

The management of the Alamo will transition to the state's General Land Office over the next four months. During that time, the Land Office will solicit proposals for the development of a strategic plan for the Alamo grounds and search the nation for a new management company.

The Alamo was the site of a key battle in the Texas Revolution in which Texas gained independence from Mexico. Some 180 defenders were killed there during a siege by Mexican forces. Weeks later, those deaths provided Texas irregulars with their rallying cry that they carried to victory over Mexican forces at the Battle of San Jacinto, which clinched Texas independence from Mexico.

"The Alamo has always had the same owner — the people of Texas. And so to meet the ever-increasing operational needs of the Alamo, the GLO has determined to change its day-to-day management from the DRT and move in a new direction. Together, we will create a bigger, brighter future for this Texas shrine," the Bush statement said.

The management of the Alamo will transition from the Daughters to the state's General Land Office over the next four months. During that time, the Land Office will solicit proposals for the development of a strategic plan for the Alamo grounds and search the nation for a new management company.

The General Land Office took ownership of the Alamo in 2011 at the behest of the Legislature, which had grown concerned about the care of the iconic Texas landmark. Worries arose following accusations of mismanagement and financial incompetence levied at the nonprofit Daughters.

The next year, the Texas General Land Office told the group's Alamo Mission Chapter to vacate the Alamo grounds, that the group "could no longer store private belongings on state property, or continue to enjoy free, exclusive, long-term use of state property for private chapter business."

During his campaign last year for land commissioner, the Republican Bush had expressed a desire to reach out to the Daughters for greater involvement by the group in the Alamo's affairs. Nevertheless, his decision to cancel the group's management of the attraction was not a complete surprise to McCaffrey.

"That's politics," she said.

"Over the past few years, the needs of the Alamo have really grown significantly, especially in the area of conservation and the need to be able to fundraise," said Alamo Director Becky Dinnin .

She added of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas: "They acknowledge that the needs of the Alamo for the next hundred years are great and we see this as an opportunity to move forward with a new vision and a new purpose, be able to take it to the next level."

"It's an opportunity for us to open doors even wider," Dinnin said while also acknowledging, "We wouldn't have the Alamo without the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, it just wouldn't exist."

Dinnin said the group intervened in 1905 and "kept it from being torn down."

"There will always be a place of honor for the Daughters of the Republic of Texas," said Dinnin, who said she herself qualifies for membership in the organization.

The Daughters remain concerned, however, about the potential commercialization of the Alamo and its surrounding grounds. "I think that's always been a concern," said McCaffrey, whose group has always maintained the Alamo as a shrine demanding reverence from visitors, not the bustle of an amusement park.

"Unfortunately, it doesn't take much to turn it into one," she said of the Alamo becoming a tourist trap.

But fundraising for Alamo projects has long been among the biggest challenges the Daughters faced in recent years, bringing them criticism about their ability to continue managing the symbol of Texas independence.

For the Daughters, the parting is bittersweet but will not do away with the group's mission, President General Ellen McCaffrey said.

"It frees up our time, money and resources for other projects," she said, citing specifically the former French Legation to the Republic of Texas in Austin and the Republic museum to be developed next door.

"Some people will be more upset than others," she said, noting that the Alamo was the primary activity of the San Antonio-area Daughters.

Dinnin said the move announced late Thursday was timed to come while the Legislature was in session and also before the start of the next fiscal year — though it won't require lawmakers' approval. She said pop star Phil Collins' recent donations of 200-plus Alamo artifacts from his personal collection came as part of an agreement that a visitors center be built in the next seven years.

She said that as part of that, officials want to redevelop portions of the Alamo Plaza and need to devise a strategic plan with the city of San Antonio and "professional organizations that manage museums" that can "fundraise with us."

" The Daughters of the Republic of Texas are a volunteer organization. Their leadership changes every two years. It's something that has worked in the past and we are appreciative of that," she said. "But we're looking at the next 100 years."

On the Net:

Alamo Endowment Website: http://www.thealamo.org/endowment

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