A representative from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department confirmed the state agency is reviewing whether a nature trail fee instituted by River Place Limited District meets state standards.
At issue is whether trail access can be limited because the walkway was constructed partially via the use of state grant money, of which $500,000 was awarded in 2002.
A copy of a 2002 state project agreement received by Community Impact Newspaper shows the state agency approved a state-funded grant of $500,000 to go toward completion of River Place MUD Woodlands Park and Nature Preserve, with a portion of that money going toward the creation of the trail system. Steve Lightfoot, press office manager for TPWD, confirmed in a phone call that money was awarded for the park and trails project, but he could not recall the amount.
Guidelines from the Texas Recreation & Parks Account Program in the same document stipulate the project sponsor “…will permanently dedicate for public park and recreation use all project area(s) which receive TRPA assistance, as required by Chapter 640.1.2 of TRPA Grants Manual Guidelines.”
“We are looking into that, and I believe we are in the process of corresponding with them to let them know about the proper guidelines for the trail based on the funding provided,” Lightfoot said. “Our grant program folks are looking into it.”
River Place Limited District informed the public in early March that it would charge people living outside the limited district to use the trail.
Board President Scott Crosby said Aug. 23 that $35,600 has been collected from trail users, with $35,000 going back into the maintenance and operations of the district’s parks and trails.
Crosby said he has not yet received any correspondence from TPWD regarding the trail fee, but it could have been sent to a representative of Inframark, the limited district’s management company.
Multiple attempts to seek comment from an Inframark representative have not been returned as of publication.
Lightfoot said the department has not yet made a determination regarding the legality of the $10 per person and per pet trail fee.
“I don’t know that it would be considered an investigation,” Lightfoot said. “I think it was just a look into what the circumstances were and what the parameters and guidelines were that were established when the grant was made.”
If it was determined violations occurred regarding the limited district’s application of the $10 fee, then Lightfoot said an investigation would be conducted.
“This is a new program for us, and we’re kind of feeling our way through,” Crosby said. “We’ve made several adjustments in the hours [when the charge to use the trail applies].”
Due to the consistent heat brought on by the summer months, River Place Limited District has most recently reduced the hours when the fee applies to Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Crosby said.
“So, we’re constantly looking at it and tweaking the hours as demand and circumstances change,” Crosby said, adding any other time from sunrise to sunset that a staff member is not manning the trails to charge, patrons may use the trail for free.