Though no time frame has yet been set, members of the River Place Limited District and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department are planning a meeting to discuss reasonable access to the Woodlands Park nature trail within the limited district.
The meeting centers on the validity of a $10 per person and per pet fee the River Place Limited District has been charging nonmembers to use the trail at designated times since March.
The TPWD looked into the matter after receiving several complaints from citizens. A $500,000 grant issued in 2001 by the department for the partial acquisition and full development of Woodlands Park was the main reason for the investigation.
In a July 23 letter to the River Place Limited District, Dana Lagarde, TPWD recreation grants branch director, stated the fee is neither reasonable nor comparable with other state or local public facilities.
"... Therefore, this fee is prohibited by the terms of the grant agreement and must be terminated immediately," the letter states.
Scott Crosby, River Place Limited District board of trustees president, said Sept. 17 the board has no plans to permanently or temporarily stop charging the fee.
"Right now, unless our legal folks tell us differently, we plan on continuing to charge the fee until we have a chance to meet with [TPWD]," Crosby said, adding he does not yet have the most current numbers for how much money the limited district has collected from assessment of the fee. "I don't get the information until our next board meeting [Sept. 24]."
During the limited district's Aug. 27 meeting, the board disclosed that River Place received about $2,500 in fee collections per weekend through the summer months, though that figure dropped slightly to about $2,000 through the first few weeks of August.
Stephanie Garcia, a press officer with TPWD, said via an email sent to Community Impact Newspaper on Sept. 17 that even though the department has found the River Place Limited District to be in violation of the grant agreement, it does not have the authority to assess penalties.
However, there are processes and procedures in place when recipients become noncompliant with the terms and conditions of the grant, she said, adding the initial steps of the process will involve attempts to resolve the issue through a mutual agreement.
Additional information from TPWD states at this time it is not an option for the limited district to pay back any of the $500,000 grant.
"TPWD will conduct a site visit and discuss the concerns all parties have regarding the site," Garcia said. "We expect to come to a solution that addresses the public’s concerns and the RPLD’s concerns while also being in compliance with the grant terms and conditions."