One percent for the people By Julie Ryan Austin The Highland Lakes in Central Texas are a beautiful place to visit, but, chances are, you’ll not get near the water unless you have a friend with a lake house or you have the cash to rent a cabin and a boat. Ninety-nine percent of the shoreline on the Highland Lakes is privately owned, according to John E. Babcock, supervisor of the Research and Development Department of the Lower Colorado River Authority. The LCRA estimates that there are more than 800 miles of shoreline on the Highland Lakes, including Lakes Buchanan, Lyndon B. Johnson, Travis, Austin and Inks Lake. Mr. Babcock’s estimate would place the length of shoreline accessible to the public at about 8 miles. This total is dispersed among four of the Highland Lakes; Lake LBJ has no public beaches. The scarcity of public land on the lakes originated in the construction of the dams, which began in the mid-30’s. All the land surrounding the lakes at that time was private ranchland, according to Dr. Charles T. Clark of the Bureau of Business Research at U.T. “In some cases, the LCRA bought the right-of-way to have the land flooded” when the dams it built were completed, “but the owners retained title to the land.” The few cases in which the The writer, a UT-Austin Plan II graduate, worked until recently as a continuity writer at KTBC-TV. Ninety-nine percent of the Highland Lake shoreline is privately owned. LCRA bought the land en toto account for the public land that the LCRA maintains today. In addition, there are cityand county-owned parks and two state parks. “The need for the dams and the history of their development,” says Dr. Clark, give reasons why the lakes are as they are. When the LCRA was created by the Legislature in 1934, it was empowered to: control floods \(there were 22 which caused serious distribute and sell water; generate and sell electricity; and reforest and conserve soil. Providing public recreation facilities was not seen as one of its main functions. Now the proportion of public to private land on the lakes is virtually rigid, because very little of the land is unclaimed. Individual owners and commercial interests such as marinas own the greatest part of it. GIVEN THE limited amount of public land, adequate development of it is especially desirable. Usage is heavy; 3100 to3200 vehicles were estimated at Travis Park last Labor Day, by Precinct 3 Commissioner’s Office. The means used by the LCRA for accomplishing this development have never been satisfactory, however, by its own admission. Since it was not empowered to fund park development, it has had to find money from sources other than its own budget. Three means of developing and operating parks were arrived at over the years: concession arrangements with private individuals, contracts with the county and leases to private organizations. The first means used was the granting of concessions on park land to private individuals, for their profit, in return for development and maintenance of the public areas. “We would make a deal with an individual,” Art Anderson, designing engineer of the LCRA, explains, “to make his livelihood on say, five acres of public property, on the condition that he keep 15 acres free and open to the public, and develop it.” The developments included roads, rest rooms and other facilities, in proportion to the volume park of usage and the ratio of concession land to public. Recounting the drawbacks inherent in this means of financing, Anderson recalls, “To begin with, anyone with a large amount of money wouldn’t want to invest in property not his own … So we would find a local person to develop the public land very slowly,” while he made his living off the concession. The development sometimes went worse than slowly; Sandy Creek Park on Lake Travis got a manager who “didn’t want to mess with it.” “Fine” facilities that had been put in by his THE TEXAS OB SERVER The Texas Observer Publishing Co. 1972 Ronnie Dugger, Publisher A window to the South A journal of free voices Vol. LXIV, No. 3 Feb. 18, 1972 Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Democrat, which in turn incorporated the Austin ForumAdvocate. Editorial and Business, Offices: The Texas Observer, 600 W. 7th St., Austin, Texas 78701. Telephone 477-0746. 74810.V! EDITOR Kaye Northcott CO-EDITOR Moll Ivins EDITOR AT LARGE Ronnie Dugger Contributing Editors: Winston Bode, Bill Brammer, Gary Cartwright, Lee Clark, Sue Horn Estes, Joe Frantz, Larry Goodwyn, Harris Green, Bill Hamilton, Bill Helmer, Dave Hickey, Franklin Jones, Lyman Jones, Larry L. King, Georgia Earnest Klipple, Larry Lee, Al Melinger, Robert L. Montgomery, Willie Morris, Bill Porterfield, James Presley, Charles Ramsdell, Buck Ramsey, John Rogers, Mary Beth Rogers, Roger Shattuck, Edwin Shrake, Dan Strawn, John P. Sullivan, Tom Sutherland, Charles Alan Wright. We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of man as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. 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