The Lower Colorado River Authority plans to upgrade the facilities at the Low Water Crossing Recreation Area on Low Water Crossing Road near Mansfield Dam. Construction is to begin next year.
Improvements at the site, which is adjacent to Steiner Ranch, will include a new parking lot, permanent bathrooms and an entrance booth.
“These are considered basic amenities necessary for park operations and are found at other LCRA recreation areas,” said Clara Tuma, LCRA spokesperson.
Currently, the park has a capacity of 115 cars, half of which park in an unmarked dirt lot and the other half on the shoulder of Low Water Crossing Road. The new lot will have the same capacity but in a structured parking lot with clearly marked spaces.
The park’s current port-a-potties will be replaced with six-stall bathrooms.
Furthermore, a permanent site for year-round park hosts will be added, allowing LCRA to have eyes on the park day and night. Adds Tuma, “LCRA Rangers will continue to periodically patrol the area, as they do now.”
The 41-acre park is a popular attraction for boaters, swimmers and fishing enthusiasts. It is also known to have a “party” feel, with many visitors drinking, smoking cigarettes and becoming inebriated, according to a neighbor to the park.
Marilyn Moragne rents a home in Montview Harbor, which neighbors the park directly to the south.
“I think that a lot of people are worried about the drinking that goes on… For awhile I signed up onto one of these websites that showed you crime within a three mile radius, and anytime there was anything near here it was in that park.”
She is also concerned that upgrades will increase the number of visitors to the park. “A lot of us are concerned — at least the ones I’ve talked to — that there will be more crime. (Also) people will come this way looking for that park, so we’ll get a lot more traffic.”
“Why are they doing it?” she asks. “They don’t really need another park here. They’ve got one just on the other side of the dam… I don’t understand why, what their purpose is.”
LCRA hosted an information meeting on April 22 to present the planned upgrades to the community. Of the 50 attendees, 45 were opposed to the project.
LCRA is eager to assure the public of their intentions. “Our goal is to improve park infrastructure to support existing park use, and to protect the environment and natural resources of the area,” explains Tuma.
“As Austin’s population has increased, so has interest in the park,” which now has more visitors than facilities. “The park has inadequate infrastructure in place to support the current use,” as well as future use as the Austin metropolitan area continues to grow, Tuma said.
Because of the overwhelmingly negative response from local residents, LCRA has made a concerted effort to incorporate residents’ input into their planning.
“We are very interested in working with park users and park neighbors. In fact, we made some changes in the plan after receiving input through the public process, including increasing the buffer area and moving the location of the parking lot,” Tuma said.
In addition, LCRA is a not-for-profit entity that receives no tax dollars and supports itself through electrical generation, water sales, transmission services and park revenue, meaning upgrades will come at no cost to taxpayers. Even with the new entrance booth, the park will continue to be free for public use.
While sceptical, Moragne still says,“I hate to be against anything” that’s going to be an improvement. Her concerns and those of her neighbors will be put to the test when construction begins in 2016.