Traffic, parking, reckless driving issues
Family shares close call with vehicle
By LESLEE BASSMAN,
Four Points News
Following numerous reported safety issues in the River Ridge neighborhood, the Steiner Ranch Master Association board announced on Tuesday it will erect a temporary fence and signs at the Steiner Ranch Lake Club before this Memorial Day weekend. The new measures and signage — that provides a trespass and parking ban under penalty of towing — are aimed at deterring traffic issues and illegal use of the dock facilities.
Traffic has reportedly increased over the past couple of months especially after all other public boat ramps in the surrounding areas were closed to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
Near miss accident
River Ridge resident Amanda Cox is hopeful the board’s actions will help her small lakeside community. While attending Friday’s neighborhood parade for school graduates with her husband, nine-year-old son Landon and 19-month-old toddler, she said her family came very close to enduring a tragedy.
“(Landon) rode his bike, we were on a golf cart,” Cox said. “We were sitting in front of our neighbor’s house watching the parade and were getting ready to leave. All of the neighbors were standing around and we were saying our goodbyes (when) this car comes off of River Bend up Terjo (Lane) and is going rather fast, accelerating and accelerating. I didn’t think she was going to stop and I actually grabbed my baby and I jumped off the cart because I thought she was going to seriously knock us over.”
What Cox didn’t realize was that the vehicle’s driver came only feet from striking Landon whose back was turned to the car, she said.
“She didn’t stop,” Cox said. “She didn’t say, ‘sorry.’ She didn’t try to wave apologetically. She barely slowed down. When children are in the road, they’re on the sidewalks, they’re playing — you need to drive at a responsible speed limit.”
A neighbor filed a police report regarding the incident that Cox said gravely shook up her son.
“If they were to close down that boat ramp in its entirety, like forever, I would be okay with that if it’s going to save one child,” she said.
Currently, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Steiner Lake Club at 12300 River Bend remains temporarily closed, but that hasn’t deterred some people from accessing its dock, using the boat ramp and increasing traffic and parking issues.
Steiner resident speaks out
Jen DuPont, a Steiner Ranch resident who doesn’t live in River Ridge, acknowledged the association’s need to protect the area and dissuade trespassers. However, she said the temporary fence will wreak havoc on resident boaters, rendering the boat ramp unusable and cutting off their ability to use the lake.
“The lake and boat ramp are not owned by Steiner, and unless you live down in the River Ridge neighborhood, the parking lot is a necessity to use that part of the lake,” DuPont said. “Boaters will not be able to stage the launching of boats with a fence cutting off the parking area.”
The 16-year Steiner resident said one of the deciding factors used to purchase her home was that lake access point. With the fence in place, boaters won’t be able to back up or turn around to exit, DuPont said.
Instead, she advocated the community’s governing body hire security personnel to monitor the closed amenities.
“I cannot imagine what this is going to look like for the people living down in the neighborhood this weekend,” DuPont said.
Last week, the Four Points News reached out to local agencies to see what protective actions could be taken in River Ridge, with its private lake club but public boat ramp and neighboring streets.
Austin Code Department Supervisor Michael Dial responded, stating that city officials will research the community’s jurisdictional issues, with an eye toward determining what areas are within Austin’s enforcement purview, and follow up with a recommendation as to other agencies that would be able to help residents.
As of May 20, Dial stated he is working with the city’s public works department “to see if they have any options or ability to close or limit access to the ramp.”
“This ramp has been there for decades and the boat ramp is not (in) violation and our department is trying to assist the (homeowners association) with information so they are informed as to who the responsible departments are,” he said in an email. “The parking area is property of the HOA and they are responsible for that area.”
River Ridge resident Loren Lawson said the ramp and its surrounding site has a long history. The developer of Steiner Ranch initially planned to donate the area to Travis County and the city of Austin; however, she said the dimensions didn’t conform to local code standards.
“So it’s like ‘no man’s land,’” Lawson said.
She’s been pursuing additional safety measures for the community with local agencies and said the SRMA board’s action “is a motion forward” as well as timely due to the holiday weekend’s ability to draw added cars and lake users.
“Somebody is going to be seriously hurt or die this weekend,” Lawson said. “It’s inevitable. This is so dangerous and so extreme that somebody has got to be held accountable for this craziness.”
There is some incorrect info in the following message to Steiner Ranch residents. Four Points News recieved this message:
There is an error in your boat ramp article. It is actually in the letter you reprinted from Steiner Ranch Board of Directors. The boat ramp in Apache Shores is owned by the Apache Shores Property Owners Association. It is private–always has been. Please don’t refer the public to our private boat ramp. Over the years security has been increased to limit unmanageable crowds of non-residents, and anyone who shows up this weekend is going to arrive to find iron fencing and gates, electronic access for permit-carrying owners only, and a security guard turning them away. Save them the time and frustration by correcting this information.
Steiner Ranch Master Association Board of Directors shared this email with Steiner residents at 8:52 p.m. on May 20:
Dear Steiner Ranch Residents,
The HOA would like to share the good news with you that Travis County has opened Mary Quinlan Park boat ramp effective today, Wednesday, May 20th, 2020. The CDC is still recommending limiting contact with individuals outside of your home, practicing social distancing when in public, and various other protective measures. They also recommend minimizing physical contact with high-traffic surfaces as the virus causing COVID-19 can live on surfaces for an extended period of time. Steiner Ranch amenities affected by the closure include the pools, parks, playgrounds, clubhouses, basketball courts, ball fields, volleyball court, and lake club facility.
Since the Covid19 stay-at-home order was enacted and majority of Travis County closed all parks and boat ramps, the Association has been dealing with two major predicaments at the Lake club facility on Lake Austin.
1. People have been climbing the fence and congregating at the Lake club facility, not practicing social distancing, vandalizing the facility, and becoming a nuisance to the neighborhood along the access road to the Lake Club.
2. The boat ramp adjacent to the Lake club is on City of Austin controlled property and this is one of the only two ramps that are currently open (Apache Shores is the other.) Many non-residents and businesses are trespassing by using the HOA association parking lot when accessing the public boat ramp. Many of these trespassers are also jumping the fence and illegally entering the association facilities. We have been trying to prevent this with the help of City of Austin Police Department and the Travis County Sheriff’s Department.
Unfortunately, it has become clear that these issues cannot be solved by law enforcement alone. The Association has sought the advice of legal counsel and have been in talks with government and law enforcement agencies. At this point we are compelled to temporarily fence off the parking lot at the Lake Club until a solution is found. We hope all residents will understand this crowding at the Lake Club represents a considerable liability for the HOA. We are looking into car passes (stickers) for the homeowners’ cars and a gate system that will utilize key fobs for Steiner Ranch residents to access the boat club parking lot. We hope to have a solution in place by the time the amenities reopen from the COVID 19 closures. Low contact amenities like trails and tennis courts have been, and will remain, open for our residents to enjoy at this time.
We will continue to monitor the situation, consult professionals and provide another update in about 2 weeks. We appreciate your continued support, understanding, and look forward to a time when we can safely reopen all of the amenities that help make Steiner Ranch a great place to call home.
Steiner Ranch Master Association Board of Directors (SRMA BOD)