USACE Speaks for First Time about Road Closure
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) released today details of a closed-door June 8 meeting where options for reopening Canyon Dam’s popular service road were discussed by representatives from USACE’s Canyon Lake and Fort Worth offices, U.S. Senator John Cornyn’s office, Guadalupe Blanco River Authority (GBRA), Comal County and Water Oriented Recreation District of Comal County (WORD).
USACE closed the road to public access without warning on May 21, citing safety concerns. Thousands of area residents as well as tourists walk the trail/road annually to enjoy its spectacular views of Canyon Lake and the Texas Hill Country, and its closure sparked a petition on Change.org that quickly drew 17,500 signatures.
Tim MacAllister, Fort Worth District operations chief, described the Corps’ decision to cordon off the road as “difficult” but warned USACE may not be able to obtain funding for upgrades needed to bring the road into compliance with federal guidelines.
In a press release posted to USACE’s Fort Worth District website, USACE said it is meeting with stakeholders included discussion of alternatives and funding sources that would make the service road “safe” for mobility devices like wheelchairs and scooters as well as for bicycles, strollers and children’s wagons.
Reacting to the announcement on her Facebook page, Jen Crownover, Comal County Commissioner, Pct. 4, told her constituents the Corps and other stakeholders are 100-percent committed to getting the access road reopened.
“Before that happens, some adjustments will need to be made, and we are already at work on those details,” she said.
USACE blockaded the road after reaching an impasse with U.S. Access Board over a May 22, 2017 complaint alleging the Corps violated the Architectural Barriers Act.
U.S. Access Board said pedestrian access points to reach Canyon Dam Crest Trail were not accessible to mobility devices, and charged the Corps with flatly refusing to make the trail accessible by widening pedestrian access points to 36 inches and providing greater maneuvering clearance.
Speaking publicly for the first time about its decision, MacAllister said the complaint brought to light safety concerns for all users.
“Having concern for the safety of all users and not wanting to discriminate, the Corps made the difficult decision to close the dam service road to all users until the appropriate safety features and accessibility features could be put into place,” he said in the press release.
More details from the press release:
“Alternatives discussed included constructing a wider pedestrian walkthrough to allow wheeled assistive devices such as wheelchairs and scooters to pass through, yet prohibiting motorcycles and other motorized vehicles.
A second measure would include guard rails on both sides of the entire length of the dam service road to provide safety measures for the steep slopes along the service road.
Additionally, the group discussed modification options for the parking area to allow access from the parking lot to the accessible walkthrough so that it will be compliant with access requirements.”
Crownover said in an earlier interview the Corps would seek public funding to help reopen the service road. No cost estimates are yet available.