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Eccleston Says Thursday’s Vote at Commissioners Court Is About Updating Language, Not Charging Fees for Boat Ramps

An item on Commissioners Court's Thursday agenda would update 1960s-era language about what the county can or cannot do on easements owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Near Boat Ramp 1, courtesy of Mark Robinson, owner of Holiday Lodge on Canyon Lake.

Comal County commissioners aren’t meeting Thursday to finalize plans to charge residents for using Canyon Lake boat ramps.

Pct. 1 Commissioner Donna Eccleston said the motion she added to the court’s agenda last week updates 1960s-era language about what the county can or cannot do on easements owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Other counties who entered into similar agreements with the Corps are not limited by this kind of language, she said.

“I believe up-to-date agreements should reflect statutes and regulations in place,” Eccleston said. “We need to be on a level playing field with everyone else…I wanted any restrictions on the county removed. It’s like telling you this is your house, and you spend a lot of money on it, but I’m going to tell you what you can and can’t do in your home.”

The proposed addendum to the county’s agreement, addressed to Eccleston and signed by USACE Fort Worth District Management and Disposal Branch Chief Lucas Cecil, removes the words “free public use” and “free public access” from the county’s agreement with USACE.

She said this language was generated by USACE, not recommended by county. The Corps is expected to send over amended language before Commissioners Court at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. If it doesn’t arrive, action on Item 20 could be postponed.

If the county did charge a fee to access boat ramps, all monies raised would be used to finance improvements, Eccleston said.

Since June, some county residents have stated they would support a fee for boat ramps if funds raised could be used to alleviate problems caused by thousands of visitors trying to access small county boat ramps built for neighborhoods developed in the 1960s.

Eccleston agrees.

“My whole thing is I want everyone to have safe access,” she said.

The proposed addendum to the county’s agreement was filed as an action item following several months of heated debate about how to fix overcrowding and safety issues at the nine Canyon Lake boat ramps operated by Comal County.

News of the change sparked controversy on social media Tuesday after Pct. 4 Commissioner Jen Crownover urged Canyon Lake residents to review the item and show up to speak about it during Commissioners Court.

Public discussion about how best to deal with the chaos and confusion at Canyon Lake’s county-operated boat ramps began on June 10 when Eccleston drafted and presented to the court new regulations for boat ramps that clarified and updated 27-year-old language in a 1994 order still in place today.

She said she made the update at the request of local law enforcement.

The 1994 order limits use of boat ramps to the launch and recovery of boats only. No fishing, partying, swimming or loitering is allowed. Other offenses include parking, picknicking, obstructing and ignoring requests or orders from law enforcement.

Eccleston defended her rewrite, saying it clarified things for both the public and for law-enforcement officers who must safely and consistently enforce the same rules for boat ramps that are dissimilar.

“Everything you couldn’t do before you still can’t do and there’s nothing new in this order,” she said in June.

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