Park entrance needs attention

Popularity of park causes traffic back-up on crowded days; solution needed

By Ken Esten Cooke— With spring break just around the corner, we’d like to draw attention to a popular springtime attraction that poses a potential danger.

The entrance to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, located about 15 miles north of Fredericksburg on RR 965, needs attention. The no-shoulder, two-lane farm-to-market road is unforgiving when coupled with today’s driving habits and park crowds. On weekends when the park hosts 5,000 or more people (they total 250,000 annually), cars are backed up and blocking the road for hours at a time.

Cars and trucks rounding corners and coming over hills may not realize what lies ahead as they near the park. While most Gillespie County residents and frequent visitors know what to expect, so many from nearby cities or those making their first foray to the park have no idea they may have to come to a full stop.

It is a disaster waiting to happen. Just last year, an 18-wheeler plowed into the back of a car and killed two children in a similar traffic bottleneck elsewhere in Texas.

It’s no secret that both the state parks department and the Texas Department of Transportation are both terminally underfunded. A rise in the gas tax — from which Texas has had a hiatus since 1991 — could help spur road and infrastructure repair (though the legislative desire is lacking). And the full use of the state sporting goods tax — which was passed to fund state parks operations — would help immensely. Right now, the parks only get about one third of that intended funding as legislators find other ways of using those funds.

The park’s staff frequently helps direct traffic on the road, but again, their resources are limited. Friends of Enchanted Rock raises funds to help the park with various projects, but this needs attention from those who can expand roads.

The popular Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is the state’s fifth-most-visited park in the state. Its location as a short drive for the growing Austin and San Antonio markets means we can expect visitation to continue to grow.

And that’s great, but we urge our state leaders, and county lawmakers to the extent they are involved, to develop a plan to address this situation. No one wants to experience disaster on spring break.

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