Crownover Announces Dam Alliance
There’s hope, dam walkers.
Two months after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) barricaded Canyon Lake Dam’s popular service road without warning, a new Facebook page called “Dam Community Alliance” promises good things are on the horizon.
“Want to start walking the DAM again?? Huge announcements coming soon!!! Buckle up…we’re gonna need your help. More details soon!” a post to the page promised late Friday evening. The new group is officially called Canyon Lake Dam Community Alliance.
The group’s mission statement: “The Dam Community Alliance is committed to bring the citizens of Canyon Lake together for fun, fellowship, and the betterment of our community. Our first mission is to get the necessary improvements made so that the walkway across the dam can be reopened.”
Writing on her official county Facebook page, Jen Crownover, Comal County Commissioner, Pct. 4, said “Many of y’all have wondered if we have forgotten about our beloved walks on the DAM. The answer is, NO!! Please follow this page for the latest updates. Some major announcements will be coming very soon on ways you can help, and events you will NOT want to miss!!”
A link on comaltrails.org connects to a PayPal page soliciting donations for Canyon Lake Dam Trail. Comal Trails Alliance works to create trails connecting communities and provides opportunities for education, health, preservation and enjoyment of the natural resources of Comal County.
The Corps closed the road unexpectedly on May 21, citing safety concerns. However, the U.S. Access Board said the Corps refused to make reasonable and cost-effective modifications following an official complaint about lack of access by mobility devices.
Crownover subsequently spearheaded a closed-door meeting in early June aimed at ending the impasse between the two groups. In early July, she said that as an outcome of that meeting the Corps was working on rough drafts of modifications of plans that would resolve the situation.
However, she warned a citizen committee would be necessary to “hash out” fundraising efforts that would underwrite the cost of repairs.
At her June meeting were representatives from Water-Oriented Recreation District of Comal County (WORDCC.com), Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA.org), Comal County Engineer Tom Hornseth as well as USACE officials from both Canyon Lake and Fort Worth District attended the meeting. A representative from U.S. Senator John Cornyn’s office was there.
USACE’s decision to close its road — which the U.S. Access Board categorizes as a trail — was resoundingly criticized by residents, who like to walk the dam and enjoy the scenic vistas only available from there. A petition posted on change.org, asking politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz to keep the dam open, quickly drew 18,400 signatures.
Shortly after the road was closed — with no explanation — Canyon Lake Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook explained the USACE was dialing back on “well-intentioned operational decisions that unfortunately excluded users with disabilities.”
However, the U.S. Access Board, an independent federal agency created in 1973 to ensure access to federally funded facilities, said in a May 29 email to MyCanyonLake.com, that the USACE “flatly refused to make the trail accessible” and only needed to widen pedestrial access points to 36 inches and provide greater maneuvering clearance to bring the road into compliance with federal regulations.
Dave Yanchulis, who works in Public Affairs, said the USACE also reclassified the Canyon Lake Crest Trail as a road which, the Corps argued, would exempt them from meeting Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) standards.
USACE did not provide additional details about its decision to close the road, which was sparked by a May 22, 2017 complaint filed with the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) alleging that the pedestrian access points to reach the Canyon Dam Crest Trail were not accessible to those who use wheeled mobility devices, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
Despite lengthy communication between USACE and the U.S. Access Board aimed at resolving the issue, USACE closed the road last month. U.S. Access Board said they learned of the closure through media accounts.