Reading a recent letter to the Trib reminded me of a letter that I wrote more than 10 years ago. There had been several drownings at Airport Park at the time of my 2011 letter. I suggested the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers take advantage of low water levels, caused by the 2011 drought, to fill in exposed holes and remove dangerous debris from the edges of the lake. I believe such activity is central to the original mission of the Corps.
In that letter, I also complained about the Corps of Engineers’ heavy-handed management of our lakes and waterways. The Corps has spent millions of our taxpayer dollars fencing off and restricting the use of our property. Airport Park, Speegleville Park and Midway Park were once used by thousands of local residents, many of whom were low-income families. I often camped out with my dad, my uncles and cousins near Lacy Point. The expansive area called Speegleville Park was a popular destination for nature lovers, campers and fisherman.
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It wasn’t perfect. We sometimes had to pick up beer cans and trash left by ourselves and others. There was sometimes a need for law enforcement. At some point in the 1970s there was a squabble between the county and the city of Waco about who would empty the dumpsters. The Corps took that opportunity to employ a “noble sounding” argument that cited litter and lack of law enforcement to justify fencing off our land. They proceeded to block off roads preventing access to hundreds of taxpayer-owned lakeside acres. Visitors were then herded like goats into tightly “governed” areas. Those public lands are now unused or restricted for use by fee-paying RV and boat owners. The masses now must gather in two small areas of Speegleville and Airport parks, which are often closed down.
We are spending millions of taxpayer dollars on projects like the “hoofstock barn” and the downtown Waco Brazos-to-Baylor riverwalk connection. Such projects encourage visitors and provide entertainment venues for our Baylor University students and parents, and that’s fine, but can’t we find a few dollars to spend on dumpsters and some law enforcement so thousands of local citizens can once again enjoy Lake Waco?
I hope that others will join me in an effort to convince our local leaders to pursue the return of our land around Lake Waco. We can afford to maintain it. The Corps of Engineers needs to take care of its own business: maintaining the dam, managing the flow and quality of the water entering the lake, and flood control. The Corps has no business managing recreational areas adjacent to our lakes and rivers.
Bobby Jack Blain, Woodway
Baylor football starts real soon
On Saturday of this coming weekend.
Coming off our record year,
Make plans right now to attend
Some events this season.
We enter with an optimistic view.
Six home games will give us some tests,
And provide some fun for me and you.
Now support this team
Who have paid their dues
With heated practice sessions.
Now let’s make some news,
And show this country and other conferences
That Big 12 football is here to stay.
“Sic ’em Bears” is a great motto,
What do you think or say?
Ben Hagins, Woodway