Texas Parks and Wildlife ‘looking into’ legality of River Place trail fee

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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.

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  1. Mr. Crosby’s comment that “$35,000 was going back into the maintenance and operations of the districts parks” is a bit deceptive given that the $35,000 is really just the cost for staff to enforce the fees. Not only is the fee excessive, it is providing no material benefit to the parks or trails.

    • Are you saying that having staff at the trail is not a material benefit ?

      By that standard we have several county parks that should reduce or eliminate staff, and perhaps their entry fees.

  2. Currently there are 4 attendants at the park during hours that they are charging (2 at the main entrance, one each at the north and small trail entrance). They are charging 7 am to 1 pm, which is 6 hours. So that’s 4 ppl x 6 hrs = 24. At $8.00/hr that is $192.00/day for staff pay. So each weekend staff costs $192.00 x 2= $384.00. lets say they operate 52 weeks a year, which is improbable due to weather, but anyway: $384.00 x 52= $19,968.00.

    So if they have been operating for 6 months, and have made $35k, only approx. $10k of that has gone to paying for staff. The trail is nice, but I don’t think it costs over $4k/month to maintain (if it does, let me get in on that maintenance contract).

    If they actually wanted to just pay for the trail, and not “keep the riff-raff out,” which we all know is the real reason, dropping the fee to something reasonable, like $5/person, would likely bring in even more revenue and still cover the costs of attendants and upkeep.

    Also, there is no reason they need two people sitting under the umbrella at the main entrance. It takes about 30 seconds per person to pay. This isn’t Disney world (but it IS almost as expensive).

  3. You will be paying the ticket-takers salary. Next thing you know they will be charging you to drive down our roads. Oh wait, they already did that.

  4. Hiker, they actually pay the company that provides the attendants more like $21/hour for each attendant. At a recent board meeting they disclosed that ALL the money collected has gone to pay for manning the trail. $0 have gone to maintain anything. Counting other expenses they are still almost $10,000 in the hole. The River Place Board consider that cheap to keep you out of their neighborhood.

    • TWENTY. ONE. DOLLARS. AN. HOUR?!?!?!?!?!

      That is insanity. They literally sit under an umbrella and swipe a credit card with a handheld device. That’s a minimum wage job if I’ve even seen one. I know people with degrees who actually work full time at TWPD that don’t make that much per hour….. But yeah, clearly they just want to keep the “lower class” people out, not actually maintain/improve the trail.

      Glad to see that TPWD is (hopefully) putting a stop to this price gouging.

      (Btw, I’d pay $5 without any sort of complaint if it ACTUALLY went to improving the trail, not lining the pockets of a “management company” that I’d bet is owned by someone on the River Place Board’s brother in law… The whole thing is just gross.)

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Brian Rash
Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018.
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