Staff at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Canyon Lake office is fed up with the overcrowding, drownings, accidents, chaos and littering on the shoreline of the federal asset it owns and manages.
Friday, USACE Canyon Lake Manager Javier Pérez Ortiz said some recreation areas will close indefinitely on weekends due to safety and environmental concerns. Further closures could be announced in the near future.
Guadalupe Trail and Stilling Basin parking lots will close on Saturdays, Sundays and major holidays. The parking lot that provides access to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) fishing pier remains open.
North Park’s campground opens Fridays at 3 p.m and closes at 2 p.m. Sundays and Federal Holidays. All of the other areas that USACE manages are open.
Traffic control measures are expected over the Fourth of July at the popular Overlook Park, whose Dam Access Road offers one of the most scenic vistas in the area.
Boat ramps are not affected by USACE’s announcement. Most boat ramps are operated by Comal County.
“In recent weeks, large crowds have been gathering in and around Overlook Park and the Guadalupe Trail. The size of the crowds have caused concern for public safety and negative impacts to the environment,” Pérez Ortiz said.
On Facebook, USACE said large amounts of garbage and other debris are routinely left behind by crowds and vegetation has been damaged due to the number of vehicles being operated and parked off roads and designated parking lots. The Stilling Basin fence located at the Guadalupe parking lot has been vandalized several times recently.
USACE’s Canyon Lake staff asks visitors to practice leave-no-trace measures, use designated trash receptacles and always wear a life jacket in or near the water.
Doug Leecock is the spokesperson for the Canyon Lake Boat Ramps Community Alliance (CLBRCA), which is working with stakeholders like USACE, Comal County, Water Oriented Recreation District of Comal County (WORD) and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) to bring law-and-order to the chaos at boat ramps.
He said closing recreational areas right before the Fourth of July weekend isn’t helpful and could make things worse at county-operated boat ramps.
“We understand that there is a need to protect the natural resources and private property around Canyon Lake, however implementing closures as a response will not simply make people stay away from the recreational opportunities at Canyon Lake,” he said. “All of the visitors will simply find the next-closest access point to relocate their gathering — boat ramps and adjacent shorelines.
“A park or ramp closure shifts the overcrowding, trash and lack of law enforcement to other resources and stakeholders, thereby perpetuating this cycle of not addressing the root causes,” Leecock said. “We are disappointed in the decision to close certain parks, as this will simply add significant pressure to park and boat-ramp locations that already have overcrowding, parking, safety, and trash issues, as clearly outlined in Comal County’s Boat Ramp Survey.
“The CLBRCA sees significant value in having all stakeholders meet to develop an implementable management plan that lays out a clear outline to protect the natural resources and private property while addressing obvious overcrowding, safety and parking issues to allow tax-paying citizens their right to enjoy Canyon Lake.”
On June 6 Canyon Lake Fire/EMS responded to its fourth serious water emergency — and second death — in a week.
On June 19, an intoxicated man fell off his jet ski in Turkey Cove, throwing a baby who was not wearing a life jacket into Canyon Lake. On June 10, two San Antonio residents died after being run over by their boat’s propeller.
Residents who volunteer to clean Canyon Lake parks, trails and shorelines during the week say they pick up trash of all sorts and must tread carefully due to human waste left behind by visitors.
Canyon Lake opened in the early 1960s to provide water for downstream areas and reduce serious flooding in the lower Guadalupe River Basin. USACE oversaw the design and construction of the lake, which was not intended to serve as the water destination-of-choice for tens of thousands of summer visitors as well as hundreds of local residents.
Canyon Dam protected downstream areas from major floods in 1978, 1987, 1991, 1992 and 1998, according to Wikiepedia. A record flood in July 2002 overtopped the spillway by more than seven feet (2 m) and caused significant damage below Canyon Dam.
For more information about closures visit USACE’s Canyon Lake website or call 830-964-3341.