Efforts to Reopen Dam Road Pick Up Steam
The grassroots effort to reopen the popular, scenic pedestrian walkway across Canyon Lake Dam is picking up steam, according to a Jan. 27 post on Dam Community Alliance’s (DCA) Facebook page.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has worked closely with Canyon Lake High School and the alliance to finalize a design and an action plan for constructing a new gate for the service road, which is beloved by tourists and residents alike.
Jen Crownover, Comal County Commissioner, Pct. 4, said the barrier will be built by students in Canyon Lake High School’s Agriculture Mechanics class under the supervision of Shop Instructor Garrett Schatte. USACE will pour a concrete slab sometime in the near future.
DCA was able to fund the improvement by raising $12,500 at the 2018 Dam Fine Car Show! on Oct. 21, 2018. Community contributions added roughly $10,000 to that amount.
“Thanks to your incredible support, the Dam Community Alliance has the money in the bank to fund the gate materials and construction,” DCA posted on Facebook.
The alliance also is working closely with USACE on different options for guardrails.
“We have counter-offered with some different ideas than they were considering, and the Fort Worth District engineers are currently considering these options. We hope to have a decision soon,” it said on its Facebook page.
DCA met on Jan. 11 to consider new ways to raise funds, including organizing a 2019 Dam Fine Car Show! on Oct. 20 (rain date is Oct. 27).
The group has made “significant headway” in obtaining a 501(c)(3) non-profit status. After the 2018 car show, a law firm volunteered to manage that process for free.
“There is much more to be raised by the community, in order to reopen one of our favorite jewels in the community,” Dam Community Alliance posted. “With your help, it will happen much SOONER than later!
“Please know that we are doing everything we can to get this project rolling and outside of funding this project so that we can once again have the PRIVILEGE of walking across our beloved dam, the USACE, especially those working here at Canyon Lake, fully support us and are doing what they can as well to move things along.”
To make a contribution, visit Comal Trails Alliance at comaltrails.org. One hundred percent of all funds raised go toward dam improvements for reopening the dam.
About Dam Community Alliance
According to Crownover, the alliance’s first mission and priority is funding as much of the improvements it possibly can in order to restore public access to the service road.
Long term, DCA will become a non-profit partner with USACE, helping to pay for other improvement projects like bathroom facilities and enhanced observation areas.
Several other USACE-operated lakes have similar non-profit entities that exist to enhance public access.
Crownover said law enforcement and first responders needs support, too.
“We also hope to raise money to help them in the context that they respond to calls at the lake — whether that is a piece of equipment they need or anything else. Our board has a member of the Comal County Sheriff’s Office on it, as well as a delegate from Canyon Lake Fire/EMS (Comal County ESD No. 3).”
Why USACE Closed the Road
USACE padlocked the popular trail atop the dam unexpectedly on May 21, 2018 citing safety concerns.
However, the U.S. Access Board said the Corps refused to make reasonable and cost-effective modifications it suggested following an official complaint about lack of access by mobility devices.
Crownover quickly spearheaded efforts to reopen the road, arranging meetings with stakeholder groups — Water Oriented Recreation District of Comal County (WORD), GBRA, USACE and county officials — and forming Dam Community Alliance.
How Much to Reopen?
How much additional funding will be needed to reopen the dam’s service road, and where it will come from, remains unclear. The USACE has not released any cost estimates for the project.
Nathan Pence, executive manager of Environmental Science and Community Affairs for GBRA, said that several local agencies, including GBRA and WORD, are following the project and want to assist the community, when details and plans are established by the USACE.
Crownover said GBRA, USACE and WORD plan to be cost-sharing partners, but reiterates no cost estimates are available due to the fluid nature of the project.
USACE’s Working with Stakeholders
Clay Church, public affairs specialist for USACE’s Fort Worth District, said in a Jan. 30 email that the corps continues to collaborate and coordinate with stakeholders about viable options to allow public access to the service road over Canyon Lake Dam.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to work with concerned citizens and local elected officials for solutions that provide safe public use of the dam service road at Canyon Lake Dam,” he said. “Design elements that will ensure safe public access and that will not adversely impact the Corps’ Flood Risk Management mission or interfere with dam safety and physical security requirements are currently being evaluated. Final design, funding options and the contracting process are all variables that impact progress to getting the dam service road reopened for public use.”
Crownover said although GBRA is a partner in the collaborative effort to reopen the dam’s service road, “the Corps is in the driver’s seat.”