USACE Closes Whitney Lake Parks for Same Problems Canyon Lake’s Experiencing
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) closed two parks at Whitney Lake on June 9 for many of the same problems that plague its Canyon Lake parks: Large crowds, safety issues, trash, and concerns about social-distancing in the age of COVID-19.
But there are no plans — yet — to shut down USACE parks around Canyon Lake, according to Clay Church, public affairs specialist for the Corps’ Fort Worth District, which oversees the lake.
“We’re not contemplating closing,” he said. “However, we certainly reserve the right.”
Church said professional park rangers at Canyon Lake can estimate crowd size and best evaluate what’s happening on the ground.
“I don’t blame people for wanting to get outdoors,” he said. “People just have to do it safely, cognizant of other people’s safety.”
At Canyon Lake, USACE operates Canyon (partially closed), Cranes Mill, Guadalupe, Little Jacobs Creek, North Park (fully closed), Overlook, and Potter’s Creek (partially closed) parks as well as the Hancock Horse Trail and Potter’s Creek Public Ramp (closed).
Whitney Lake is 30 miles north of Waco and 65 miles southwest of Fort Worth.
Click here for current information about the status of all USACE parks and facilities in Texas.
Whitney Lake closures
Crowds and cliff-jumping were among the reasons cited for Whitney Lake’s closure.
In a Facebook post, Col. Kenneth Reed, Fort Worth district commander, said recent crowds at Soldiers Bluff and Walling Bend parks at Lake Whitney were not in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The health of our team and the community is our top priority,” he said. “Protecting our team includes mitigating the spread of the virus and ensuring personnel have the most up-to-date information on appropriate measures to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.”
USACE estimates crowd sizes between 200 and 600 people.
USACE said excessive vehicle and foot traffic also impacted land and natural resources on both public and private property.
Large amounts of garbage and other debris left behind by these crowds damaged vegetation due to the number of cars parked off of designated roads. Foot trails also were affected.
Whitney Lake Manager Abraham Phillips also warned about cliff diving, which also has occurred at Canyon Lake.
“This is a dangerous activity that can lead to serious injury or death, and rules and regulations governing USACE property prohibit cliff jumping or diving at USACE lakes.”
USACE June 12 statement:
#USACEFortWorth welcomes and appreciates the numerous public comments and concerns expressed regarding the recent closure of Soldiers Bluff Park and Walling Bend Park on Whitney Lake.
There were many circumstances and issues that went into the Corps decision to temporarily close these parks.
The large crowds at these parks have reached over 600 visitors, resulting in negative impacts on the parks and adjacent areas.
Local law enforcement has also encountered multiple violations including minors in possession of alcohol, drug activity, etc.
Closure of the parks was a joint decision between Corps officials and the Bosque County Sheriff’s Office due to the illegal activities and the number of minors involved.
Additionally, this unsafe and illegal activity has been taking place in areas with steep bluffs that are being accessed along narrow trails that run along the edge of the bluffs. The bluffs or cliffs are being accessed primarily for people to cliff dive. Although cliff jumping or diving has been a popular activity at Whitney Lake, it is a dangerous activity and is prohibited by the Federal regulations that govern Corps of Engineers’ lakes and property.
Again, we appreciate the numerous public comments, concerns and recommendations expressed regarding the recent closure of Soldiers Bluff Park and Walling Bend Park on Whitney Lake.
Please send future comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
We apologize for any inconvenience, but these closures are necessary to ensure the safety and overall well-being of visitors to our parks.