Fee collection for the Panther and Little Fern trails has ended, according to Jesse Kennis, the senior operations manager for Inframark, the limited district’s management company, in a Sept. 11 email to Community Impact Newspaper.
Inframark spokesperson Leigh Catlin said in a Sept. 11 email that those living outside the district’s boundaries still have to pay a $10 fee on the Canyon Trail.
“A $10 fee is charged during peak usage hours for access to the upper Canyon Trails,” Catlin said.
Representing RPLD, attorney Zachariah Evans sent a letter dated Aug. 13 to Dan Reece, the local parks program manager for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The letter obtained by Community Impact Newspaper stated that RPLD would suspend the fees for the Panther and Little Fern trails starting Aug. 17.
Fees for the Canyon Trail would remain since that section did not receive grant funding, according to Evans' letter.
Evans' letter stated that the RPLD was "disappointed" in the TPWD's position, which would likely lead to an increase in the $10 fee to use the Canyon Trail.
(A PDF of the letter is available at the bottom of the story.)
A Sept. 10 email sent by Reece to Evans and obtained by Community Impact Newspaper stated that "the proposal outlined in your letter will bring River Place Limited District into compliance with the requirements of the TPWD Local Park grant program."
In March 2019, RPLD—a governing body that oversees recreational facilities, recycling and solid waste disposal in the district—began charging a $10 per person and per pet fee for people living outside the district to use the trail on holidays and during popular times on the weekends.
After receiving several complaints about the fees, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department looked into the matter. At issue was whether trail access could be limited because the walkway was constructed partially via the use of state grant money, of which $500,000 was awarded in 2002.
A 2002 state project agreement shows the stage agency approved a state-funded grant of $500,000 for the completion of River Place MUD Woodlands Park and Nature Preserve, with a portion funding the creation of the trail system.
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.”
In a July 23, 2019, letter addressed to Scott Crosby, president of the River Place Limited District, TPWD Recreation Grants Branch Director Dana Lagarde stated that a $10 fee was not justified.
Last fall, RPLD and TPWD agreed to meet to discuss access to the trails.