The Lower Colorado River Authority announced last week that it is exploring the possibility of creating a park north of Johnson City in Blanco County and has entered into a conditional contract to purchase land there.
The 222-acre tract is known as Rainbow Trout Farm and has frontage on the east side of U.S. Highway 281 and the south bank of the Pedernales River. It is near the Blanco County Fairgrounds.
David Dockery, City Administrator for Johnson City, said LCRA representatives attended the August 19 city council meeting but did not reveal many details about their plans for the land if the purchase is consummated. Dockery said the property is outside the city limits, but adjoins the city, and has fire protection, electricity, water and wastewater already in place.
A 90-day due diligence period has begun, during which LCRA staff is evaluating the land’s suitability for a park that will serve Blanco County residents and the region. Purchase of the land is contingent on approval by LCRA’s Board of Directors. A vote could come in September or October. The Board directed staff to pursue the acquisition of land for an LCRA park in Blanco County.
If the land is purchased, a master planning process would begin. Public input would be sought by the LCRA to help determine the types of outdoor recreation facilities and activities citizens would like to see in their county.
“A new park would be wonderful for the community and certainly would create more opportunities for all the citizens of Blanco County to enjoy the out of doors,” said Blanco County Judge Bill Guthrie. “We look forward to working with LCRA on such a possibility.”
Chelita Riley, a director with the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber has not taken an official position on the possibility of an LCRA park in their area. But Riley shared her personal opinion, based on what is currently known. “The property was going to be developed eventually, and a public park would be a great use for the property. Preserving the property’s Pedernales River frontage would be consistent with our citizen’s desire to preserve our natural resources.”
The property meets all the basic site criteria established by LCRA for such a project, including accessibility to all citizens of Blanco County and major water frontage. LCRA parks must be located in the Colorado River watershed.
Area residents report that the property has an Olympic size swimming pool, infrastructure for an RV park, a gazebo and a building.
Krista Umscheid, LCRA spokeswoman, said it is too early in the process to know what types of facilities or activities may occur on the land. “If we do buy the land, then we will seek the public’s input to help figure out what types of outdoor recreation facilities and activities area residents want.”
Umscheid said, “LCRA staff has visited with local elected officials about the project and, the feedback we have received from them, as well as feedback from the public, has been positive.”
The LCRA owns 40 parks along the Colorado River Trail that runs 600 river miles from the Texas Hill Country to Matagorda Bay, including 6 parks or nature preserves along the Colorado River, Lake Buchanan and Lake LBJ in Llano and Burnet Counties.
Roughly 800 of the 940 acres at Canyon of the Eagles at the north end of Lake Buchanan are a nature preserve that is home to a variety of wildlife, including three threatened or endangered birds: the American bald eagle, the black-capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler.
The 400 acre Cedar Point Recreation Area on Lake Buchanan has three miles of shoreline and is suitable for walking, boating access, bank fishing, camping, picnicking and wildlife observation. The free boat ramp is used for launching boats on the north end of the lake.
The 25 acre Black Rock Park on Lake Buchanan is popular with campers, swimmers and boaters.
Nightengale Archaeological Center at Kingsland is a prehistoric site that was discovered in 1988 when looters were caught stealing artifacts from LCRA owned land. LCRA determined this site to be a major archaeological discovery with more than 171,000 recovered flint tools, spear points, arrowheads and other artifacts as evidence that the site has been continuously inhabited for 6,500 years and possibly as far back as 10,000 years. The Texas Historical Commission has declared the site a State Archeological Landmark.
Sunset Point Park is a privately operated RV resort on Lake LBJ that operates under contract with LCRA.
At the south end of Lake LBJ is Granite Beach Recreation Area which has a boat ramp on the south shore of the lake. Next door is Granite Beach, which has a boat club and marina, cabins, a restaurant, water park and sail and ski rentals. LCRA leases the property to private operators.
Funding for the purchase of Rainbow Trout Farm would come from the LCRA Public Recreation and Conservation Land Acquisition Fund. It was created primarily of monies from the sale of non-essential, non-utility lands owned by LCRA.
More than 1 million people have access to the Colorado River and Highland Lakes annually through LCRA’s parks and recreation areas. The LCRA Colorado River Trail Master Plan, developed in 1991, envisions an LCRA park providing access to the river, lakes or a major tributary of the Colorado River in each of LCRA’s 10 statutory counties along the river. The trail was intended to help conserve natural resources and provide recreational opportunities in the region. Currently, Blanco County does not have an LCRA park.