LCRA staffers John Gillen and Susie Baxter-Harwell address West Austin residents April 22. LCRA staffers John Gillen and Susie Baxter-Harwell address West Austin residents April 22.[/caption]

Low Water Crossing Park slated to gain $400,000 in improvements

The Lower Colorado River Authority will fund a $400,000 project aimed at adding an entrance station with a booth, restrooms, a paved parking area and a recreational vehicle host site to the Mansfield Dam Low Water Crossing Park off North RR 620, LCRA officials said at an April 22 open house event.

The 41-acre tract has been used as a park site for more than 30 years, LCRA Park Program Coordinator John Gillen said.

A park host site is an RV space with electricity, water and wastewater that is dedicated to a couple whose job includes picking up trash in the park, cleaning the restrooms and ensuring site security in exchange for living on the park site, Gillen said. Currently, some LCRA parks enlist park hosts, he said.

Gillen said the goal of the project was not to bring more people into the park but to sustain the day population the area currently attracts.

“We hope these improvements will help better manage the park,” he said.

The project would replace the site’s three portable toilets with flush models, Gillen said.

In the Lake Travis area, LCRA maintains nine properties including the Low Water Crossing Park, he said.

“We have a vision to tie them together through roads, hike and bike trails, and waterways,” Gillen said.

Although LCRA Parks Superintendent Susie Baxter-Harwell said the agency had no immediate plans to charge a fee to the admission-free park, LCRA may in the future consider charging admission to supplement its operating costs. She said the agency’s parks are required to generate 50 percent of the funds needed for maintenance.

Architect Steve Knoll presented two options for the project as well as what future designs may entail for anticipated projects on portions of the tract that have not received funding. The future projects may include a camp store, kayak rental center, concession stand, linear promenade with a picnic area along the water and a fishing pier, he said.

Some park users fish off the bridge in the park, an activity that is not allowed by the city of Austin, which owns the bridge, Baxter-Harwell said.

Additionally, a learning or staging area that would house kayak classes and a separate pavilion for community events are possible future projects, Knoll said.

“We’re making [the park] better, more efficient and able to be maintained,” he said.

Out of the roughly 50 people attending the presentation, 45 said they were against the proposal. A majority of the opponents were from the neighborhoods adjoining the park—Hidden Valley and Montview Harbor. Hidden Valley dead-ends at Fritz Hughes Park and Montview Harbor is adjacent to Steiner Ranch.

The residents cited concerns over a possible increase in crime and trash from additional park visitors, traffic issues, added fire potential, environmental issues and homeland security because Mansfield Dam may be a target in a terror attack.

“People come into our neighborhood after checking out the park,” Montview resident Phil Han said.

He said he has already encountered visitors trespassing into his backyard from the creek and was concerned that the increase in park patrons would only exacerbate the problem.

“The park hosts [are] our eyes and ears in the park,” Gillen said. “They will alert Travis County and the game wardens.”

Baxter-Harwell said boundary fencing can be constructed along the park area. She also said LCRA envisioned the park for day use only and is not planning on allowing overnight camping at this time.

“We’re talking about a very environmentally sensitive area,” Han said. “And we’re talking about inviting people into the area.”