Bastrop County is a fast-growing neighbor to Travis County—the home of Austin, the University of Texas, the state capitol, Austin FC, Austin City Limits, Oracle, Tesla, and so on. Bastrop is also directly downriver from Tesla’s new world headquarters and car-making factory.
When Elon Musk moved from California to Texas, his Boring Company quickly set up shop in rural Bastrop County, and currently has a permit to drill 500 feet under State Highway 1209. Where the tunneling goes from there is not currently known. There’s talk of how the company will make a tunnel to Tesla’s manufacturing plant, the airport, and downtown Austin. Like most of Musk’s projects, the vision is grand. And like most of his projects, his teams are moving fast and breaking things—in this case, the law (watch the video for details).
In response, “Keep Bastrop Boring” is a new community campaign from Chap Ambrose a full-stack, user-centered developer and local landowner since 2013. As a neighbor to the Boring Company’s new test station, he’s directly impacted by the company’s decisions, lawful and otherwise.
Ambrose is putting up his own money to publicly shame Elon Musk and company for failing to be a better neighbor. The delivery mechanism is a billboard placed at the corner where the Boring Company execs turn left off of Highway 71 to reach their new facility. The placement assures that the message meets its intended audience, while also getting the word out to local residents like me.
Ambrose’s immediate concern is with groundwater. On the campaign website, he writes, “Their plans show them tunneling 1,500 feet from the Lower Colorado River, where we have an extremely shallow water table and are practically all sand and gravel. Every family home in the area is on well water, all the neighbors drink this water, and several rely on it as part of their small businesses.”
“If Elon is going to prototype the world’s fastest tunneling operation in my neighborhood, then I expect the most innovative and transparent safety systems to go alongside it,” he adds. “I want sensors around every tunnel publishing public data about water quality and any potential containment. I want a red team onsite with the tunneling crew providing transparency.”
I spoke to Ambrose on the phone today. He said that he’s “thinking generationally” and that his motivations are to protect the family’s land and the area for his children. In a separate but related move, Ambrose has set up a new 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization to help create the funds for local county parks.
Ambrose said there are currently 25 housing developments on the books in Bastrop Country, and he’s working to preserve some of the open and wild areas before it’s snatched up by developers. Bastrop County has no budget set aside for county parks.
I asked Ambrose if his message had reached Musk and his men. He said, “I know they talked to the Sherrif to determine if what I am doing is legal. It is. They also read my posts on Reddit.” If Ambrose had the chance to speak directly to Musk, he said he would ask him to apply a higher standard.
“I support positive development,” he emphasized. “Some of my neighbors think the ‘Keep Bastrop Boring’ message is too positive and they don’t want stickers,” he said.
The billboard is scheduled to come down tomorrow, April 14th. Ambrose said he will continue to come up with new ways to inform the public and that he welcomes help from other concerned citizens.