By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
A new 8-foot tall fence off of RM 2222 along the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve has many Four Points residents asking why it is necessary.
The stretch of fence along RM 2222 is costing $250,000 and the funding comes out of the 2014 City of Austin budget, , according to Jill Mayfield, public information officer with Austin Water. Construction began in December and will be complete by March 1.
This fence is the newest section of an ongoing 10-year project by the City of Austin and is mandated by the federal government to protect the protected species within the preserve, Mayfield said.
She said one reason the fence is needed is to keep people from trespassing in the preserve. She said BCP has had incidents of trespassing and litter and one big concern is unattended hikers who may cause wildfires.
“Somebody walking with a cigarette through these lands could be very serious,” she said.
Mayfield said BCP offers regular guided hikes through the preserve. Residents can view schedules and sign up on the BCP websiteaustintexas.gov/wildlandevents.
She said the fence also serves to protect the land from over populations of deer and feral hogs.
“We’re able to manage deer population to a standard that the land can support,” she said. “Overpopulation of deer is very hard to the environment.”
Mayfield also said that there are still areas that need to be fenced. Hill Country Fence Inc. was the contractor for the project.
“The fence was built to be functional and cost efficient – that was the most important, we had to meet certain costs,” Mayfield said.
Local resident Jerry Rios said while he understands the intent of the fence, he finds its appearance unsightly.
“It really takes away from the scenic and natural beauty of the preserve,” Rios said. “The least they could have done is place the fence further into the property so that it isn’t visible from the roadway, or put in a fence that blended in and is much more aesthetically pleasing.”
Mayfield said the BCP is an example of how to balance development with the protection of an endangered species and a natural legacy.
“While people may struggle with the fence, the views of that land will never go away,” she said. “That’s one way that we protect the land and protect that natural heritage. There’s never going to be anymore development there. Those rolling hills will always be those green, rolling hills.”