Candidate Criticizes Krause for Not Closing All Parks
Comal County boat ramps and parks weren’t on the agenda at Commissioners Court on Thursday but they dominated the discussion.
Colette Nies, a Presbyterian chaplain who is running as a Democrat against incumbent Pct. 3 Commissioner Kevin Webb, criticized County Judge Sherman Krause for not closing all county-owned parks over the holiday weekend.
On Wednesday, Krause ended weeks of speculation as to whether the county would shutter these facilities to protect residents during the COVID-19 pandemic by signing an order closing Canyon Lake boat ramps and Hidden Valley (in Canyon Lake) and Jumbo Evans sports parks.
Not included in that order were Kleck Park and Curry Nature Park Center, which lack picnic facilities and are primarily geared to hikers and bikers.
Speaking during Citizens Comments, Nies, who lives in New Braunfels, said Krause should have closed all parks.
“You put out a public-image blurb that the two parks omitted don’t have spaces for gathering,” she said. “Being that they total almost 100 acres, I challenge your determination and seriousness to commit to protecting possible tourists as well as our own residents of Comal County. The data shows us that it will make a difference. Will it be a challenge to enforce? Yes. Yet the worst-case scenario is, what? That people die? Our numbers here are still rising. Not including all the parks is literally saying the health and wellness of some areas takes precedent over others.”
Nies said she reached out to Canyon Lake Pct. 4 Commissioner Jen Crownover, who told her on Wednesday that she supports stricter measures. She said Pct. 2 Commissioner Scott Haag declined to answer whether he had asked Krause to close the parks.
“As a researcher there is a balance between letting go of personal biases and allowing the data and research to tell the story,” said Nies, who also works in the energy industry. “Great leadership values facts and accountability over the need to be right.”
Krause took the unusual step of responding to her comments after the public forum ended, adding he had worked on the order for a week and a half before issuing it.
“The reason we did not close all of those parks was because of the makeup of those parks,” he said.
When Nies, sitting in the gallery, called for a point-of-order, Krause reminded her she already had a chance to speak and continued with his explanation about the differences between these parks and Landa and Fischer parks.
Because Kleck is a wooded park without picnic facilities or barbecue grills, it is primarily used only by locals and not visitors from other communities, he said.
“For the court’s information, that is the reasoning that we used behind closing the boat ramps and two of our four parks in the county,” Krause said.
Canyon Lake Boat Ramps
Comal County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Nitsch, who serves on a COVID-19 task force, left little doubt as to who is visiting county facilities in the Canyon Lake area.
During the Workshop Agenda he told commissioners there are plenty of people from other parts of Texas showing up at Canyon Lake boat ramps.
“The issue at this time is not our local businesses, it is the visitors from the Houston, Austin and San Antonio areas that are using the county boat ramps and going for leisurely drives down River Road,” he said. “While most won’t think this is a big deal you need to think about these people from the more-infected areas having to use our gas stations, and such, for restrooms, fuel, snacks, drinks, wherever they’re going on their leisurely drives to get out of their house and to also purchase items to facilitate their lake adventures.”
Nitsch said traffic along the River Road is comparable to what the Comal County Sheriffs Office sees during summer months.
When law enforcement scanned license plates, most were from vehicles registered to owners in Austin and San Antonio.
Many visitors said they were “just trying to get out and they heard that our boat ramps were open,” he said.
County boat ramps in Canyon Lake will reopen on April 14, when Krause’s order expires.