BROWNSVILLE, Texas — SpaceX and its rocket launches in South Texas are subjects of fandom and frustration. Depending on who you ask. The company has been in Cameron County for several years, still, Tuesday night, at the Brownsville City Council meeting, some residents complained the company-caused development in the region will push out residents, local businesses and cause environmental damage.
As passionate as some born and raised Brownsville residents are about what they say are the negative impacts of SpaceX, Ryan Tucker is just as passionate about space exploration.
“I can talk about space stuff all day and all night,” Tucker chuckled.
We found Tucker near the SpaceX facility in Boca Chica, where he was just checking out what was going on.
“I've been a huge space fan since they started way back in 2007 or so,” Tucker said. “I've just moved to Brownsville a couple of weeks ago, and I've just come out here about every two or three days just to record the latest developments.”
Tucker said the decision to move from Colorado was easy.
“Just to be as close as possible to this Space Starship program, it’s probably the most exciting, important project on the whole planet right now,” he said. “So, I want to be here to follow the whole future. All the developments of the program coming up.”
Cameron county, the home of SpaceX had big plans for its future, when then County Judge Carlos Cascos, with the approval of the Commissioners’ Court, signed the initial contract.
The Federal Aviation Administration as well as multiple state and federal agencies signed an agreement in 2014.
“I wasn't enamored with the fact we're going to see rocket ships launch to the moon,” former County Judge Cascos said. “I mean, that was that was a byproduct. But with that came what we hoped to be heads in beds, tourism. It's a quality of life, you know, bringing in new families into Cameron [County] from other parts of the country or the world, you know, increasing our population, increasing our tax base.”
The development, he said, hasn’t been without difficulties. The purchase of homes from residents of Boca Chica and some refusing to sell has been widely covered in the past.
Cascos brought up restricted beach access to what he calls one of the last pristine Texas beaches accessible by car along the Gulf Coast.
“It's quiet, it's peaceful,” he said. “A lot of people are feeling that, and I don't like that word and it's very, very subjective, but they're feeling nonetheless that they've lost their beach.”
One highway leads to Boca Chica Beach. According to the Cameron County website the beach was closed 12 days last month, all during the week. More closures are scheduled in the coming days.
“I'm wondering if it's possible to have a loop built around and have another entrance to Boca Chica Beach, have Mr. [Elon] Musk finance it and just give people that ability and maybe and maybe block off a certain segment of the beach and not the whole beach, because right now nobody can get in if they're going to launch,” he said.
On Twitter recently, Musk pledged 10 million dollars to the city of Brownsville “for downtown revitalization,” he said, and 20 million to Cameron county schools.
A spokesperson for the Brownsville Mayor told KENS 5 Wednesday the Mayor has not received any more details on this from anyone at SpaceX regarding the donation.
“I was hoping that he would be able to become more ingrained, more involved in the community,” said Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr.
A Brownsville native, he said he hoped this was one of many investments into the community.
“We want to try to leverage that money to make it last,” he said. “We also want to prove to the foundation and the Elon that if the kids here are given the same resources as everywhere else, they're going to succeed just as well as every other child and every other part of the United States all over the world.”
“It seems that when folks see charity and donation, a see a bribe,” said Nansi Guevara during Tuesday night’s Brownville City Council meeting.
Guevara said she grew up in Laredo and has lived in Brownsville for 6 years.
“I am speaking today because I feel sad, I feel frustrated,” she said. “Most of all I am concerned for the livelihood of the working people in Brownsville. It seems apparent that we’re seeing things very differently, what I observe is a classic tale of colonization.”
Alex Balderas, 22, has been a fan of SpaceX since he was a teen. He created the SpaceX Boca Chica Facebook group that’s nearing 25,000 members, with moderators from across the country and overseas.
“I can't describe how cool it is to see the launch,” he said. “Members come together with witness history.”
While Balderas said he was surprised so many people are following his page, he believes it will only get bigger, as more things start happening on the SpaceX site in South Texas.
“All the excitement will get bigger very soon,” he said.
KENS 5 reached out to SpaceX by email and phone. The company did not provide us a statement or anyone to talk to.