Wednesday, April 26, 2017

City Remains Hands Off on Twin Buttes Information

Having missed the public meeting on Twin Buttes Reservoir I was interested in viewing the slides from the three presenters, Lt. Jason Huebner of Texas Parks and Wildlife, a representative from the Bureau of Reclamation and a local off-road enthusiast who'd mapped the trails around the North Pool.  I assumed other citizens might want to view the presentations so I requested the city post the slides on its website.  City officials refused, saying they did not have access to the documents.

The City issued a press release on March 15th promoting the event.  It hosted the meeting in City Council Chambers, recorded the meeting on the city's audio-visual system.  The press release for the event said:

Twin Buttes is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. That federal agency contracts with the City of San Angelo to manage the lake, which serves as a water source for San Angelo. The City last year contracted with Texas Parks & Wildlife to manage the public hunting program at Twin Buttes.
The meeting reiterated the City is responsible for lake maintenance and operations at Twin Buttes Reservoir.  So the responsible party who promoted, hosted and recorded the meeting does not have material on planned changes under its operational bailiwick?  The city has historical black marks in vendor management, so one might expect it to aspire to do better.  Not so.

the City does not have that main PowerPoint presentation, which was produced by and belong to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department; Game Warden Lt. Jason Huebner.
Parks Chief Carl White confessed the City had been "hands off" at Twin Buttes for quite some time.  It remains that way on sharing basic information with members of the public who could not attend the Twin Buttes update last week. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Unbreaking Twin Buttes Reservoir

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."  

"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." 
I assume clean up means improving behavior and the physical grounds, something I've long advocated and worked toward as a park user.

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.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Public Meeting on Twin Buttes

The City of San Angelo is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the park on the north side of Twin Buttes North Pool.  Historically it's taken a "hand's off" approach to the park and all lands around Twin Buttes Reservoir.  That includes security and maintenance at Twin Buttes.

The city delegated management of lands for hunting, fishing and other recreational uses to Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife by participating in the public hunting program.  The city effectively subcontracted part of its responsibilities to TPWD.  This subcontractor led a public meeting the other night with other city, state and federal officials in attendance.   

San Angelo Live reported:

Lt. Game Warden Jason Huebner led the meeting last night in city council chambers at the San Angelo Convention center. 
The city stated it's role on their website:
Lake Operations is responsible for the maintenance on and around Lake Nasworthy and Twin Buttes Reservoir. This includes: repair and upkeep of City-owned boat docks and ramps, watering and mowing of park facilities, removal of dead or diseased trees and planting of new trees, repair and/or replacement of buoys, emptying more than 200 trash cans on a regular basis, and brush abatement.

To report vandalism, contact the San Angelo Police Department at 325-481-2750

To report illegal dumping, contact the Tom Green County Sheriff's Department. at 325-655-8111. A license plate is required.

Two years ago the city banned fireworks in the park but relaxed that in 2016.  The total fireworks ban is back and is now year around.

Despite getting a TPWD grant for new restrooms and boat ramp years ago, the city only installed the boat ramp.  There are no public restrooms in the park and none nearby.

The city has a public face for Twin Buttes and it's Game Warden Huebner.  He won't pick up trash and he can't arrest bad actors, especially with only two game wardens in Tom Green County.
The City never mobilized the will or resources to manage its contractual responsibilities at Twin Buttes Reservoir.  It entered into a contract with a group that may have the will but admits it doesn't have the resources.