Work to complete River Ranch County Park is back on track after a yearlong delay caused by issues with the contractor, County Judge Bill Gravell said in an interview with Community Impact Newspaper.

Gravell said the county had a contract in place with a construction company that “wasn’t measuring up” to the county’s standards for the park.

The 1,354-acre park, located between Leander and Liberty Hill, will include 10-12 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails; campgrounds; playgrounds; RV parking; pavilions; and an interpretive center.

In an email, Williamson County confirmed it sent a notice of default to Ritter, Botkin Prime Construction Co., the general contractor on the project, alleging it had failed to meet milestones outlined in the contract, failed to adequately supervise the work that was performed, and failed to build improvements in accordance with the plans and specifications.

The county terminated its contract with Ritter, Botkin Prime Construction Co. on June 2, 2021, according to the email.

Because the contractor was bonded, Gravell said the county had to go through a bonding or surety company to replace the contractor—a process that stalled construction on River Ranch County Park for a year. Gravell described working with bonded companies as an insurance policy to ensure the services promised in construction contracts are completed.

“We never imagined it would take a year to get the bonding company to move,” Gravell said.

The Heritage Trail West project in Round Rock, which was also awarded to Ritter, Botkin Prime Construction Co., is experiencing similar delays. Rick Atkins, Round Rock parks and recreation director, said the Pflugerville-based contractor filed for bankruptcy in late 2021.

On Feb. 22, Williamson County Commissioners Court approved an agreement with Design Workshop Inc.—a planning landscape architecture and urban design firm—to outline a new scope of services to complete the remaining work and fix the defective construction at River Ranch County Park.

According to the agreement, Design Workshop has until May 31 to draft these plans. Claire Hempel, a principal at Design Workshop, said the firm is on track to meet this deadline. The county will then put out a bid for and retain a new general contractor to execute the remaining work.

The county said once River Ranch County Park is complete, it will go back to Ritter, Botkin Prime Construction Co. and its performance bondholders to address extra costs and time lost on the project. At this point, the county said it is too early to know any financial implications caused by the delay.

Community Impact Newspaper attempted to reach out to Ritter, Botkin Prime Construction Co. but found the phone number was disconnected, and the website was no longer available.

Gravell said River Ranch County Park is 90% complete but did not provide a timeline for opening.

“A park opening date has not yet been confirmed, but all parties are working towards solutions and looking forward to a 2022 opening,” the county said in a Feb. 23 email.

Williamson County awarded Ritter, Botkin Construction Co. an $11 million construction contract for River Ranch County Park in November 2018. The project broke ground in December 2018 and was initially expected to be completed in 2020.

The county originally purchased land for the park in 2008 for $10.63 million. In April 2019, the county bought an additional 350 acres of land for the park for $4.375 million, according to previous Community Impact Newspaper reporting.

Once completed, Gravell said the park will be known as the premier park in Williamson County and will rival any state park.

“We are going to finish the park,” Gravell said.