Wednesday, December 8, 2010

City Council Meeting & Twin Buttes

The City Council discussed plans at Twin Buttes.  They verbally supported many of the proposed access changes, but wanted increased access to the south side of the North Pool.  Councilman Alexander assumed a boar ramp existed on that shoreline.  It does not.  City staff indicated their willingness to locate one in the area between the equalization channel and the dam. The shoreline has a slow grade, unsuitable for a boat ramp with any range. 

City leaders also held back on prohibiting fireworks.  Councilman Kendall Hirschfeld wanted to allow permitted fireworks, where a Tom Green County volunteer fire department could conduct a "fireworks" fundraiser.  The sponsor would charge people wishing to set off fireworks, supervise safety and control any resulting fires.

Mayor New and Councilman Adams expressed concern that citizens needed someplace to set off fireworks.  Twin Buttes has long been the place where people go to do things not legal elsewhere. 

City Manager Harold Dominguez stated security changes at Twin Buttes would free up police officer time to focus on Lake Nasworthy.  This is another longstanding practice of the City, maintaining Lake Nasworthy parks to a higher standard than Twin Buttes.

I understand City Council leaders effectively volunteer their time, but I respectfully suggest they visit the park and learn the wishes of key stakeholders.  Having met with Carl White on behalf of windsurfers, I believe City leaders should meet with key stakeholder groups, regarding their plans.  San Angelo sailors need to speak up.  Carl White is a good man to call.

Future actions will show if the City intends to improve conditions at Twin Buttes or restrict access and shift police resources elsewhere.  Their plans rely on water levels maintaining or increasing.  Their barriers will not stop vehicles, should waters fall to levels seen earlier this decade.

Monday, December 6, 2010

North Pool Launches Safe

I met with Carl White from the City today.  Virtually all of our North Pool launches (north side) retain vehicle access.  There's a chance pipe railing will impact our furthest west launch (Jimmy's Beach), but Carl expressed flexibility in that line's location. 

You may need to click on the picture to see it larger.  Look for the white dotted line running perpendicular to the water. Traffic to the west of that line will be restricted. Otherwise, our common launches remain free and clear.

Pray for rain, so the lake is actually this full.  Thanks, Carl for your time and clarifying the city's plans.

South Pool Remains Accessible

As mentioned, Carl White was most helpful.  Vehicle access to the South Pool remains unchanged.  The white dotted line indicates location of new pipe railing:

Thanks to Carl for the PDF image of the City's plans and a copy of his Powerpoint presentation.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

City Responds on Twin Buttes Plans

Assistant City Manager Rick Weise and Parks Director Carl White filled the information void.  Carl e-mailed:

Based on the map on the blog, it doesn't look like our plans will greatly impact access to that area. we aren't planning to limit vehicular access to the banks near the areas you show. I'll need to double check our map. our map is a huge file so can't email to you but I might be able to compress it Monday and email to you. I will call you on Monday. My # is 234-1724. 

BTW, I never said we planned on restricting access to the water.

It's good to hear actual information.  I'm eager to hear the City's plans.

The Prospect of Schlepping Gear

How would you like to carry a twelve-foot sailboard a third of a mile to the water, then trudge back for your sail, boom, mast extension, fin and mast foot?  What if conditions change and you need different gear?  More schlepping.   

What if you're giving windsurfing lessons to kids from the Goodfellow Rec Camp?  Bring on the burros!  That could soon be the case in surprising San Angelo.

The City sprung a Twin Buttes-Phase I Access Change into November's budget amendments.  The topic will be discussed this Tuesday, December 7.  Any small craft owners, who want accommodation, like off road bikes and ATV's, need to speak up.

Irony is the City might use a fund "to improve water recreation" to reduce water recreation.

Twin Buttes Boat Ramp

This could be the only launch site on the North Pool under the City of San Angelo's plans.  What do canoes, kayakers, catamaran, sunfish and sailboard owners do when it's dry?  Do we carry our gear a half mile to still navigable water?

Keep Twin Buttes Accessible for Windsurfers

As a sixteen year resident of San Angelo and an active windsurfer, I applaud the City’s motivation behind changes at Twin Buttes Reservoir. From 1995-1999 I actively communicated with Mayor Dick Funk, Mayor Johnny Fender, City Manager Tom Adams, Water Chief Will Wilde, Representative Charlie Stenholm and Mike Martin from the Bureau of Reclamation on the issue they're planning to address. I put much energy into being part of the solution, picking up dangerous trash and calling officials when I saw suspicious behavior. I picked up over 10,000 bottles, a few car batteries, oil filters, exposed trot lines, shotgun shells, diapers, needles, even automobile mufflers.

When I started, longtime windsurfers told me I was beating my head against a wall. Mostly, they were right. After a brief burst of activity, City maintenance declined. Areas formerly mowed became overgrown. I allowed myself hope when the City received a Texas Parks & Wildlife grant for a new boat ramp and bathrooms. We got the ramp, but no restroom facilities.

At the last City Council meeting, Carl White stated vehicles would park in designated areas, then walk or bike to the water. Depending on the city's plans, this could cause problems for windsurfers.

The best place to windsurf in San Angelo is Twin Buttes Reservoir. For decades we’ve had access to the shoreline. We share the beaches with other small craft owners, kayakers, kite boarders, fishermen with john boats, catamaran and other small-hulled sailors.

Windsurfers use the series of beaches on the North side of the North Pool, where the city officially maintains a park area. Our launches go by names like Diaper Beach, AJ’s, Jimmy’s, Fin Buster, Fish Head and Bill’s Beach.

The North Pool is sailable down to around 10% of containment level. Varied topography requires we move closer and closer to the dam as the lake level falls.

Launching from the boat ramp is a major hindrance for windsurfers. To begin with, we don’t like getting close to boats. Deep water is good for a boat launch. We prefer a slow grade, especially if we’re helping beginners.

We do our best to sail West Texas’ winds with safety in mind. We chose our launch sites based on wind direction, wind speed and water level.

We call our big wind days, “combat sailing.” On such days, we don’t sail alone. When dust is in the air, we use small boards and little sails. Combat sailing days often have a West Wind. The new boat ramp is in a hole. It doesn’t get the West Wind, making for almost an impossible launch.

As the water level falls, the area in front of the ramp becomes dangerous. Bluffs and the banks of the Middle Concho become obstructions, even for a sailboard that needs only two feet of water to operate.

When the ramp is completely dry, we can still sail. The beach we’d use is a half mile away.

I’ve spoken mostly of the North Pool to this point, however, the South Pool has its advantages. It’s a bowl, so as the water goes down, there are but a few underwater obstructions. It’s a better place to take beginners, given a South wind blows struggling sailors back to shore. The entry grade is a gradual slope, so students don’t wear themselves out swimming in water over their heads.

I’ve given lessons to Youth Campers from GAFB Rec Camp at the South Pool. I’ve let ASU international students use my gear. People come through San Angelo with sailing skills. They’ve been doctors, Goodfellow personnel, power plant managers, architects, ASU leaders, health care professionals and business owners.

Those of us who use the park responsibly and for recreation wish to continue to do so. I respectfully request the City consider accommodation for small craft owner use on the North side of the North Pool and North side of the South Pool.

I have compassion for local citizens who use Twin Buttes as a summer cooling station. I feel for the homeless people who sometimes make the area their temporary home. I’m intolerant of those who purposely break glass bottles, set unmarked trot lines and engage in fireworks fights. For fifteen years, I’ve said dumping and criminal behavior are unacceptable.

For years I heard from officials, when the water’s back up, the City will do better. Ironically, when the water came back up, I could stand in water shoulder deep and see my feet. As we sailed, we could see rocks and vegetation on the lake bottom. It was like being in the Caribbean, without the salt water.

After a decade wait, the city "is ready" to do better, hopefully not by cutting off access to the water.

There’s nothing better than sailing God’s breathe on life giving waters. I’ll find a way to keep doing it, but appreciate any help City leaders can give citizens who use Twin Buttes in responsible ways.

Restricted Water Access and Rush to Implement

A surprise item on the November 16 San Angelo City Council meeting addressed Twin Buttes Reservoir.  Leaders briefly described implementing restricted areas with designated parking, where people would access the water by foot or bicycle.  I've yet to hear the City's plans to accomodate small craft owners, canoes, kayaks, catamaran's, sunfish, and windsurfers.  I spoke to Thomas Michalewicz with the Bureau of Reclamation and San Angelo's Parks Director, who said plans were a higher level.  I e-mailed Water Chief Will Wilde, requesting plans incorporate windsurfer access, the red shaded areas in the picture above.  I haven't heard back, despite volunteering thousands of hours picking up trash solution at Twin Buttes.

The action packet for the December 7 meeting included the following information.  Restricted access is Phase I.  As Phase II and III have short-term time frames for implementation, I assume the rush is on.  For those regularly recreating on Twin Buttes, access could be restricted:

Date: December 3, 2010
To: Mayor and Councilmembers
From: Carl White, Parks and Recreation Director
Subject: Agenda Item for Nov. 16, 2010, Council Meeting
Contact: Carl White, Parks and Recreation Director, 657-4450 or 234-1724
Caption: Regular Item

Consideration and discussion of matters related to public safety issues and access to public areas at the Twin Buttes Reservoir:

· Consideration of authorizing the expenditure of up to $150,883.00 from the Lake Nasworthy Trust Fund for the construction of pipe rail fencing, gates, signs, and parking areas to limit access to some public lands at the Twin Buttes Reservoir.
· Discussion of possible amendments to City of San Angelo, Code of Ordinance, Article 9.100 entitled "Lake Nasworthy-Twin Buttes", and consideration of authorizing staff to proceed with said amendments for purposes of addressing public safety issues related to Lake Nasworthy-Twin Buttes area.

Summary: San Angelo's lake parks are a valuable economic development resource that historically have been underdeveloped and, thus, underutilized. Reversing that trend requires a comprehensive plan for improving and managing City-owned and -managed properties around Lake Nasworthy and Twin Buttes Reservoir. That plan must begin with increased efforts to eliminate unlawful activity and to increase security around Twin Buttes.

History: Management and operation of San Angelo's lake parks have been the Water Department's domain because of their proximity to the City's primary water sources – Lake Nasworthy and Twin Buttes Reservoir. Because the Water Department's charge is first and foremost to ensure a safe, clean water supply, management of the lake parks has always been a lower-tier priority. The City Manager recently asked the Parks and Recreation Department to team with other City departments, including Operations, Police and Finance, in crafting a plan to develop and manage the parks and open space around Nasworthy and Twin Buttes, with an end goal of increasing usage and, subsequently, the economic development opportunities that are affiliated with the lakes.

All involved agree the first step must be to increase public safety around Twin Buttes by enacting measures that will strengthen security and eliminate unlawful activity. That activity includes dumping and littering, drug use, underage drinking, assaults, and other illicit behavior.

City staff has identified 18 access points around Twin Buttes that lead to thousands of acres that are difficult at best for the Police Department to patrol and monitor … and in some cases virtually impossible. Re-establishing control of these areas necessitates installing approximately 29,000 linear feet of pipe fencing, 18 heavy-duty gates and warning signs at these access points to eliminate vehicular traffic into undeveloped properties. Cutouts in the fencing would ensure these aeas remain available to citizens interested in walking, hiking, running, birding, bicycling, riding dirt bikes, etc.

Additionally, the Police Department has identified weaknesses in the City ordinances that govern the uses of the waters of and properties around Lake Nasworthy and Twin Buttes Reservoir. The Police Department and City management recommends the following changes to allow its officers to better monitor activity around the lakes:

· Sec. 9.108 (b), change "Lake Ranger" to "City Manager or his designee," so the ordinance reads, "Open Fires. Open fires in camping or picnic areas are prohibited except in fixed established metal, stone or brick fireplaces or in areas properly protected and approved for such use by the City Manager or his designee."
· Also in Sec. 9.108 (h)(9) titled "Restricted Areas," change "Twin Buttes Park camper hookup area" to "the land area of Twin Buttes," so the ordinance reads, "It shall be unlawful for any person to be in either Spring Creek, Middle Concho Park, or the land area of Twin Buttes between the hours of 10:30 P.M. and 6:00
A.M. unless such person either possesses a valid camping permit or is accompanied by and in the presence of another person who possesses a valid camping permit." Further, the SAPD would like to delete the sentence that follows: "This subsection shall not apply to the Twin Buttes Park camper hookup area whenever the water level of Twin Buttes Reservoir is below the end of the main boat ramps located in Twin Buttes Park, adjacent to the Twin Buttes Marine."
· Amending the prohibition against discharging firearms other than shotguns in designated hunting areas to also include prohibiting firearms in the land area of Twin Buttes, other than shotguns (no slugs). Police report they often respond to reports of shots fired at Twin Buttes, and they routinely find people with pistols and rifles, but unless they see them discharging the weapons or find evidence that they have been discharged, they cannot take any enforcement action.
· Prohibiting the possession and discharge of fireworks in the land area of Twin Buttes.

If Council approves of these proposed ordinance changes, Legal would draft the changes for formal approval by Council at a later date.
Financial Impact: The Operations Department estimates the cost of constructing and installing 29,060 feet of pipe railing with 18 gates will be $150,883. That includes $87,883 in equipment and supply costs, plus $63,000 for approximately 4,500 man hours.
(See attached document for cost break-down.)

These expenses would be funded through the Lake Nasworthy trust. Section 36(c) of the City Charter states that "90% of the annual investment income from the Fund may be used by the City of San Angelo to pay for lake and river improvements, services to enhance water recreation and the elimination of related litter and pollution. … A public hearing must be held on the proposed uses of the investment income during the budget and budget amendment process."
City Management believes the provision to eliminate litter and pollution makes this project eligible for trust fund monies.

As of Sept. 30, 2010, the amount available in the trust fund for these types of improvements was $844,679, which represent's the funds corpus. The fund is budgeted to generate $76,500 in interest earnings in Fiscal Year 2011.

Related Vision Item
(if applicable):
While Twin Buttes is not a neighborhood, this proposal is in keeping with the Neighborhood Vision of establishing appropriate regulations to protect neighborhoods.

Other Information/
Staff envisions this proposal as the first of four phases that will lead to needed development and stronger management of the City's lake parks at Twin Buttes and Nasworthy.

Phase II would address operations and permitting (day use and overnight camping) at Lake Nasworthy, as well as proposing conceptual improvements for Nasworthy. These recommendations would be brought to the Council in January. Staff would seek to have all of these changes in place in February or March, before the spring rush at the lakes.

Phase III would address operations and permitting at Twin Buttes. These recommendations would be brought to the Council in February, with the goal of having them implemented before the hunting season begins in next fall.

Subsequent phases would address continued improvements and developments at both lakes.

Staff recommends approval of this first phase to gain control and restrict vehicular access at Twin Buttes Reservoir.

Attachments: Twin Buttes Pipe Rail budget
Presentation: PowerPoint
Publication: N/A
Reviewed by
Rick Weise, Assistant City Manager, Nov. 19, 2010
Approved by Legal: N/A

Those with small crafts, that wish to keep drivable water access, need to speak up quickly.