Last week's public meeting on Twin Buttes Reservoir provided a glimpse into changes since the city surprised citizens with a new annual permit arrangement just before Labor Day weekend. The city subcontracted recreation and some security enforcement to Texas Parks and Wildlife's Public Hunting Program starting September 1, 2016.
Lt. Jason Huebner with Texas Parks and Wildlife shared the most information in the meeting. Here are a few highlights:
"The place looks bad so it's treated bad. The idea here is to eventually get it cleaned up. Hopefully we start to take care of it better once we see that."I assume clean up means improving behavior and the physical grounds, something I've long advocated and worked toward as a park user.
"There will be tension and conflict. That's what happens when there's multi-use."
"I'm asking for your time, 10.5 hours per year. I need user groups to adopt an area and we start to clean it up little by little."
Citizens asked questions like:
1) Will there be improvements at the park, covered picnic tables or restrooms? There will not be restrooms or other improvements until things improve. What happens when there are more trashcans? They overflow and people dump. With no restrooms "a good Huisache bush is what you've got."
2) What about long term campers who appear to have limited resources trashing the place? They contribute to the place looking broken and it doesn't take a genius to realize they are using the public huisache bush for toileting. Camps must be clean and campers can only stay 14 days.
3) What's the game plan for getting out information on efforts at Twin Buttes? Parks and Wildlife does not want to do this. It will be up to the city and local user groups to communicate with citizens to post information.
4) What about signs for no dumping? The "joke" in the city is those signs are used for target practice. The warden wants to put signs all over. It will take catching someone and publicizing their prosecution to change things.
5) Who should I call when I see someone dumping trash or driving drunk? Answer: Tom Green County Sheriff's Department as they have jurisdiction. The City's Lake Police and Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens either don't have jurisdiction or may not be available. Game wardens "are a limited resource" and "most of those people (bad actors) slip through the cracks." If there was a TGC Sheriff's Department representative at the meeting they did not speak
6) Where should I put large trash items (other people dumped) when I pick them up? The city doesn't want to put around trash cans as they don't want to encourage dumping and/or empty them. Parks Chief Carl White suggested citizens take a picture of the item, it's location and send it to the city. They didn't specify who or how to contact.
7) Fireworks are not allowed.
8) Mudding in the wetlands are not allowed. Driving on a muddy road after a rain is not considered mudding.
I spent the late 1990's cleaning up the city maintained park on the north side of the North Pool. The city did not care to build on this effort and it quickly returned to the wild west. City staff promised more than once they would maintain the park once the water rose. The lake rose and fell, rose and fell and the city's stance changed only briefly with the intervention of Ken McNease. The City's convention center is named after Mr. McNease.
The City of San Angelo did not present at the recent Twin Buttes Reservoir meeting, although Parks Chief Carl White made several comments. Thus citizens don't know the city's vision or the standards, however minimal, to which it will maintain the park area.
Six and a half years ago the city said it would do better to make Twin Buttes safe for users. Six years ago it commissioned a Master Recreation Plan for Twin Buttes. Four years ago it adopted the Master Recreation Plan. Yet, last week's public meeting revealed boorish behaviors of illegal dumping, drug use, drunk driving and leaving dangerous trash continue at Twin Buttes.
The park looked much better when I moved here in 1994. It had camping hookups, public restrooms and a marina. Those are long gone. The city broke the park by viewing it exclusively through a revenue/water source lens.
There is no evidence the city plans to repair it, even with nearly $500,000 freed up to spend on Twin Buttes. The city made its last payment to the Bureau of Reclamation for the dam in 2015. However, the City asked Texas Parks and Wildlife to spruce up the recreation side, something it refused to do for decades.
Lt. Huebner is motivated and has more resources, but he admits they are inadequate to turn the tide. It's up to citizens to pack out our trash, donate time for cleanup and contact the correct authority when they see bad behavior.
But it's up to the city and the Bureau of Reclamation to repair the broken infrastructure from decades of inattention. Shot up signs are a different form of broken window and no laughing matter. Twin Buttes Reservoir is a significant water source, from which the city makes millions. Unless the city and Bureau step up it will continue to look like a wide open restroom in the wild, wild west.