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City, County, TxDOT clash over park

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

During a joint meeting of the Lockhart City Council and the Caldwell County Commissioners Court on Tuesday evening, the community”s leaders took turns expressing concern about the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT”s) plans to build a wetlands mitigation site on Plum Creek north of Lockhart.
The project, which TxD

OT has committed to in an effort to replace the wetlands that will be disturbed by the construction of State Highway 130, falls under the jurisdiction of not only TxDOT, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Both organizations are specific about what can and cannot be done with the 268-acre site.
“TxDOT is in the business of building roads, not parks,” said TxDOT representative Jon Geiselbrecht during Tuesday”s meeting. “We”re going to do what the Corps tells us as far as the mitigation site itself, but our attorneys have told us over and over that we can”t build anything that can”t be used for maintenance of the location.”
Much of the contention about the site is driven by city officials” hope that the mitigation site can be turned into an educational park for public use. However, while construction of a park has been discussed, Geiselbrecht maintains that certain requests made by the City of Lockhart and Caldwell County simply are not feasible.
“You asked us for crushed granite trails and hundreds of parking spaces,” he said. “We can”t justify that construction for maintenance of the site, and so our attorneys tell us that that isn”t possible.”
Another request, educational kiosks throughout the site, was met with the same response.
Members of the city council asked Geiselbrecht to return to TxDOT”s legal counsel and ask again.
“We thought you were going to come in and build a park,” said councilmember Michael Sanders. “Now, we”re hearing that you can”t do the kiosks, and you can”t do the crushed granite trails…so what do we have? It”s a fenced-in swamp, not a park!”
Lockhart Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram, along with several other members of the council and some Caldwell County Commissioners, agreed.
“When we first started talking about this, it was understood that we couldn”t contribute a cent to the construction,” Bertram said. “But under the agreement, after it”s built, if we were going to come in and take over maintenance, we have the responsibility of making sure it”s something that”s going to be useful and beneficial to our citizens.”
Caldwell County Judge H.T. Wright expressed a different understanding of the project.
“I think we need to stop and think about how much we”re asking [TxDOT] to give us,” he said. “I remember talking about this and understanding that it was going to be a very minimal wetlands area, and we suggested possibly walking paths to make it more useable to the community. Now we”re talking about parking lots and running trails and crushed granite, and I don”t remember that ever being offered.”
Bertram and the other members of the council maintain that a “park” was the plan for the project all along.
The initial purpose of Tuesday”s meeting was for the Commissioners” Court and city council to discuss the project and come to an agreement regarding the local wishes for the project. TxDOT is committed to using Plum Creek as a wetlands reclamation site, and, according to Geiselbrecht, hopes that the decision can be a win-win for the department and the community.
“If we have to find another site, it will shut down construction on SH-130,” he said. “We fully intend to build it right here.”
In the event TxDOT cannot reach an agreement with the local government entities regarding maintenance of the wetlands reclamation site, the department will look for a private organization to maintain it.
For additional information or to learn specifics about the plans for the wetlands reclamation “park” on Plum Creek, contact your county commissioner or city council representative.

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