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Crownover: Public Funding Needed for Dam Road

'We hope it will not be long.'

Local News

Crownover: Public Funding Needed for Dam Road

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Jen Crownover, Comal County Commissioner Pct. 4, said a Friday meeting she scheduled with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to discuss reopening Canyon Lake dam’s service road went “great.”

A collaborative effort is now underway to bring the popular trail into compliance with federal guidelines for people with disabilities, she told MyCanyonLake.com.

The meeting was not open to the public and the scope and cost of proposed upgrades are unavailable at this time.

However, in an interview with KXAN-TV in San Antonio, Crownover said USACE will rely “heavily” on community funding once USACE releases formal plan later this summer.

“We will need the help, we will need members of the community to step up,” she said.

She said plans outlined in the meeting include upgrading the entrance gate to bring the service road into compliance with U.S. Access Board (ABA) guidelines.

“Everyone is united and working toward a collaborative solution,” she said in an interview with MyCanyonLake.com. “We were able to talk through some of the informal plans for the necessary safety upgrades and tweak them accordingly. USACE will be engineering the plans, and then they will be priced out. At that time, a financial strategy will be ironed with the partners and the community, and a timeline can be established.

“We hope it will not be long.”

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 closed the road without warning on May 21, citing safety concerns.

The move 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, attracted 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 ABA, 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 needs 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.

Click here for more information.

The closure sparked a firestorm on social media, with most commentators saying it was ridiculous that a single complaint could result in the closure of a road clearly inappropriate for handicap access.

Distressed by the comments, the complainant — whose name is protected by law — reached out to Debbie England, who moderates Facebook’s closed but widely respected Take Back Canyon Lake group. The subsequent post was widely shared on social media and on Nextdoor.com.

“I truly regret my part in this,” he said. “I should have just taken my lumps and been done with it. I am just sick over all of this.”

However, Canyon Lake resident Valerie Lynn Visser, who also works with the local Parent Teacher Association, said the elderly gentleman is a hero.

She said USACE has had decades to comply with federal disability laws.

“The gentleman who started this year’s inquiry was not the first, he’s just the first whose inquiry was acted upon,” she said. “Once this issue is resolved, and access is again granted to everyone, this man should be revered for the positive change he has brought for the disabled in our local community and our tourist community.”

6 Comments

  1. So now it’s time for us to “ante-up”, huh? The taxpayers who paid for the dam now are asked to pay for “handrails”.

    IMO, it’s time for this excursion into political correctness to end. We’re not dealing with some risky carnival ride here – everyone knows it’s a straight and level paved roadway, not a roller coaster. The suggestion by COE that there’s any risk involved, even with wheelchair access, is beyond comprehension.

    Why handrails? Why now, after decades of uneventful public access and use? Where are the statistics showing handrails are needed? Cite them, COE.

    The spokesman for the agency responsible for compliance with the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, which applies to this situation, has indicated that a simple widening of the walkthrough entrances to 36″ would bring the dam into compliance – nothing further is required. So why the goofy handrails?

    The bottom line is that handrails would ruin what is now an unobstructed scenic panoramic view of the lake and environs. In many years of public access and use of this roadway on the dam, nothing supports installation of handrails, and I won’t donate one dime toward their construction.

    Reply
    1. Peggy Fleming June 12, 2018

      I agree with you. This is supposed to be a country of democracy where the rule of majority of the people rule. While I am sorry there are people who have to use wheel chairs, the concept of democracy does not give them the right to take something away from the majority of the people simply because they cannot use it ( the walkway). People use that path for walking exercise as well as for the view. It’s unfathomable to me that once again the minority is overruling the majority. Political correctness is taking away the rights of the majority of citizens in our country. Must those of us who are not handicapped be punished because someone else is? Should all of the ziplines be taken down, or all of the ski slopes and related businesses be closed because they are not accessible to someone who has to use a wheel chair, and etc. That is not democracy.

      1. JP June 15, 2018

        Peggy,

        The United States is NOT a democracy, and your statement that “the majority of the people rule” is completely false. The Founders wanted to avoid the mob rule of a “direct democracy”, whereby the masses directly vote on laws. We are a constitutional federal republic (a federation of states) with a representative democracy. The people elect representatives who then represent them in government.

        Closing the dam is a PC overreaction from government bureaucrats who need to be reined in by elected officials. Constituents are complaining, so let the process work. Mob rule is what liberals want…do you want the populations of California, New York, and Illinois electing the president?

  2. Fiasco_City June 8, 2018

    Information posted in the past day or so reveals that this fiasco has been ongoing for nearly a year now. In addition, we now learn that this is not an ADA issue, governed by the DOJ – it falls under the purview of the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, managed by the U.S. Access Board.

    So much for government efficiency. After all, these bureaucrats don’t spend their time walking the dam – they just spend it pushing paperwork.

    So where are we? ADA spokesman Dave Yanchulis tells COE “just widen the gate so wheelchairs can get through”, and that’s IT. COE says “ohhhhh, noooo, wheelchairs will careen off the dam and sue us”.

    Where else do wheelchairs come to grief? C’mon…seriously? Let’s get on with this bad joke on taxpayers’ backs. just hope COE doesn’t figure out that cripples can’t ski or boat. They’ll close the lake.

    Reply
  3. David Potter June 7, 2018

    If you Google “unintended consequences of ADA”, without the quotes, you’ll see lots and lots of reasons why ADA is not the wonderful piece of legislation it was advertised to be. Here’s a brief excerpt from an article published in the Orlando Centinal e-newspaper in Aug 2000:

    “The ADA has had lots of unexpected consequences, some of them almost too absurd to believe. A federal court said a baseball league violated the law when it declined to include an 11-year-old with cerebral palsy who used crutches — prompting a lawsuit by the parents of a disabled 9-year-old demanding that he be allowed to play soccer using a metal walker.

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Conrail after it barred an employee from a railroad dispatcher’s job because his heart condition can cause him to black out, arguing that he presented no “direct threat” to other people.

    When New York City tried to introduce public toilets on sidewalks, it ran into stout resistance from disabled-rights groups demanding that all of the toilets be usable by people in wheelchairs — which many community groups opposed for fear that the large size of accessible restrooms would attract criminals. So disabled people who don’t use wheelchairs — the blind, the deaf, the mentally retarded — were deprived along with everyone else.

    Walter Olson, author of the 1997 book The Excuse Factory, notes that the ADA has prevented medical licensing boards from asking physicians if they have a history of drug abuse, alcoholism or mental illness. The Federation of State Medical Boards says that, as a result, these boards “cannot adequately protect the public” from dangerous doctors.

    All these unwanted side effects went unmentioned on the anniversary of the ADA. Everyone focused instead on its many benefits, such as making it easier for the disabled to work, shop, travel and generally function in society. But even the upside of the ADA may be less than meets the eye.

    One major purpose of the law was to eliminate employment discrimination and thus make it possible for more people with disabilities to get jobs. In fact, supporters insisted that the cost of making adjustments for the handicapped would be more than offset because more of them would be paying taxes and fewer would be collecting disability checks.

    But as University of Chicago scholar Thomas DeLeire pointed out in a recent issue of Regulation magazine, the employment rate of men with disabilities has dropped sharply since 1990. Meanwhile, Social Security disability payments have soared. DeLeire argues that, far from helping the disabled, the ADA has discouraged companies from hiring them because of the cost of accommodation and the fear of being sued if things don’t go well.

    The ADA is not terribly popular among business owners, who say that it imposes two major burdens. First, it forces employers to provide handicapped workers with the accommodations they need to do a job — and it sets no dollar limit on the obligation. “Is $1,000 enough?” asked Mary Leon of the National Federation of Independent Business. “Is $5,000 enough? There are no answers.” Just installing a ramp for a wheelchair, she said, can run as high as $10,000.

    The law also exposes companies to litigation that can be expensive, win or lose. A lawsuit against Clint Eastwood over alleged violations at his hotel and restaurant in Carmel, Calif., demands $577,000 in attorneys’ fees. But even if he wins, he’ll have his own lawyers to pay.

    Are all the costs and consequences of the ADA worth the undisputed improvements it has made in the lives of the disabled? Maybe so. It would be interesting to know the answer.”

    And now we have still another example of ADA unintended consequences, that being the closure to the public of the Canyon Lake Dam walkway.

    What a country!

    BEST GOVERNMENT MONEY CAN BUY, RIGHT?

    Reply
  4. Karola LeMieux June 6, 2018

    Why does the government keep dictating to us, And how can each
    individual with an issue has more rights, than the majority.

    What about the land of the free. What is it to fence us in or out
    of places we should enjoy, and our tax funds build them.

    Reply

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