Homeowners and homebuyers, builders, real estate agents and property owners are all being asked by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to “stop the spread” of illegal encroachments on federal property ringing all 82 miles of Canyon Lake’s shoreline.
Because the entire shoreline is owned and administered by USACE, no one actually owns “lakefront property.”
This means that nobody can legally build any structures like stairs, boat ramps, sundecks, patios, or floating docks along the shoreline below their property, said USACE Ranger Philip Anderson, who works in the Canyon Lake office at Overlook Park.
He’s frustrated that people who go out of their way to get building plans and easements approved by county and homeowner groups don’t seem to care at all about crossing onto federal property. Canyon Reservoir was built in the late 50s/early 60s to provide flood-damage reduction to the Guadalupe River Basin below Canyon Lake and to manage the natural land and water resources.
Anderson said if he spent every day out on the water with binoculars, scouring Canyon Lake’s shoreline for encroachments, it wouldn’t be enough. As the area grows and property changes hands, new structures are popping up around the lake even as older ones are still being discovered.
“We cannot keep up with this,” he said. “We’ll catch one then there’s a dozen more. The pace is definitely accelerating and we want to bring awareness to the adjacent landowners that this type of activity is not allowed. They’re just building on property that doesn’t belong to them.”
This activity couldn’t come at a worse time. The Corps already operates on a tight budget, but like the rest of the Canyon Lake area was overwhelmed this summer by recreationalists who flocked to the area in record numbers in search of sunlight and outdoor recreation during the worst of the COVID-19 restrictions.
Trash overflowed around the lake and USACE had to threaten shutdowns after environmentally sensitive areas of its parks were trampled by visitors.
“I know my time is better spent managing parks and working on service contracts that manage high volumes of tourism than grappling with the legal issues associated with resolving encroachments,” Anderson said. “It’s a very selfish thing to do. The precious labor that the Corps spends dealing with illegal encroachments takes away from our ability to manage the high-density public parks, thereby impacting the recreational experience of the general public.”
Still, the federal government eventually will catch up with those violators and removing encroachments (see above) like cement stairs and restoring the land to its original condition can cost upwards of $100,000, depending on the amount of the encroachment.
Anderson went on to explain the Corps can place a “cloud on title” by filing a “notice of encroachment,” which will make it very difficult to sell the property.
Activities which are prohibited on federal property include:
- Any type of private or exclusive use.
- Placing unattended personal property of any kind on public land for more than 24 hours.
- Constructing buildings, roads, improved pathways, or any other facilities on public lands.
- Restricting public access either verbally, by posting signs, or by any other method.
- Operating motorized vehicles except when operated on paved roadways and at authorized access points.
- Disposing of any kind of garbage, debris, or other refuse on public land.
- Building fires on public land, except in authorized locations.
- Gathering firewood.
- Allowing horses, cattle, or other livestock on public land, except by lease from the government or as otherwise permitted.
- Destroying, altering, or removing any facility, vegetation, or natural, historical or cultural features. Removing trees or shrubs to enhance one’s view of the lake is illegal.
- Using fireworks.
- Camping, except in designated camping areas.
For more information, click here.
Or, contact USACE’s Canyon Lake office at 830-964-3341.