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River access point again dominates council discussion

March 27, 2019 - 00:00
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COLUMBUS -- Discussion of an access point to the Colorado River behind the city’s Front Street Lift Station dominated discussions of the Columbus City Council for the second meeting in a row Monday night, ending with the council instructing its city attorney to try to determine who owns the land behind the access point.

Councilwoman Sandra Frnka said she had made several trips to the river, and looked in to who owned the property behind the city’s right of way.

The council voted in late February to partially block access to the trail for liability and safety reasons. Frank Howell, of Howell Canoe Livery, approached the council two weeks ago during public comments, asking them to rescind the decision to block the access point. No action was taken because the item was not on the council’s agenda.

“I did some checking up to see who actually owned the property, and that is a big question mark,” Frnka said, noting that the appraisal district could not find any records of ownership for the land.

“They say it either belongs to the city, the LCRA, or the state,” Frnka said.

“I’ve been monitoring it, and there is a lot of activity down there, and it’s not all canoes coming in and going out,” she continued.

She said she’s gone up and down the path six times, and documented the journeys with photographs.

“I’m really concerned. There were some smaller children there, they were not wearing any type of flotation device, very near water,” Frnka said.

She also asked if the bank was stable enough for people to get a good base to step out on to.

“That’s not a play area, and there are some people taking their kids down there,” she said.

“Second of all, water and alcohol does not mix. And I’ve done too many funerals of people who died by drowning, I’d hate to see someone who parents didn’t use their best judgment,” she said, noting the city should get signage to the area “as fast as possible.”

“Ownership is where it needs to start,” said Councilman Dr. Mike Ridlen. “If it is the state of Texas, this body doesn’t have any business regulating it,” Ridlen continued.

Council members asked where the property line was between the city’s property and the property on which the trail sits.

“That one is not answerable, the line,” said Mayor Lori An Gobert.

Councilman Chuck Rankin asked if the city was even sure it owned the land upon which its lift station sits, and noted during the meeting that he didn’t receive a definitive answer from city staff or officials on that question.