"The whole angle of our lawsuit really was, we didn’t want it near a park," said Jason Smith, who represents Melissa Kohout. "We thought it posed a danger to the safety of park users. I'm sad that the trees are gone; I'm more worried about kids riding bikes than I am about trees getting cut down."
Kohout's suit says the trail system should be considered a park, and claims the city violated its own ordinance by giving Chesapeake Energy a high-impact permit for the site. That type of permit can't be issued without waivers from surrounding property owners or approval from the City Council.
City officials say the trails are actually owned by the Tarrant Regional Water District, which signed a waiver allowing drilling near the trail. But Chesapeake applied for a less-restrictive type of permit, and never posted notice about a high-impact permit.
Smith said that move denied Kohout and others a chance to protest the permit. Lawyers for the city have said that there was plenty of public notice -- the controversy over the drilling site was featured in the Star-Telegram and other news outlets, and hundreds of people attended protests or addressed the City Council about the site.
Smith said the Kohout and other protesters didn't get a chance to discuss the problem with the water board.
The drill site is in a grove of old-growth trees just west of University Drive. The land has always been privately owned, and is zoned for industrial uses, but it is popular with bicyclists, joggers and walkers who frequent the trail system.
Chesapeake's announcement that it planned to drill for gas on the site touched off protests that drew hundreds of people. The company shrank the size of the drilling pad, but clear-cut about 1.5 acres at the end of December.
Smith said Kohout wants a court to rescind Chesapeake Energy's drilling permit for the site.
-- Mike Lee
(Photos: Trinity Trees picnic last year; Kohout and Barbie)