Open boat ramp brings in crowds, while others open for Memorial Day weekend


Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect Apache Shores’ boat ramp, park and parking lot are private and not open to the public. Towing is enforced, and the area is monitored by a security guard.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A jammed-packed boat launch, jurisdiction issues and a battle for boaters to launch in Lake Austin.

When COVID-19 hit Texas, Travis County Parks closed off several boat ramps across Lake Austin — leaving only a couple open. One of those open boat ramps happens to be in the Steiner Ranch neighborhood, and it’s caused quite the turmoil for the neighborhood.

The neighborhood association sent out a statement to its residents saying many non-residents and businesses have been trespassing by using the HOA’s parking lot when accessing the public boat ramp. The neighborhood association has since taken matters into its own hands.

“Many of these trespassers are also jumping the fence and illegally entering the association facilities. We have been trying to prevent this with the help of City of Austin Police Department and the Travis County Sheriff’s Department. Unfortunately, it has become clear that these issues cannot be solved by law enforcement alone. The Association has sought the advice of legal counsel and have been in talks with government and law enforcement agencies. At this point we are compelled to temporarily fence off the parking lot at the Lake,” The neighborhood association said in a statement.

The fence went up on Thursday; the hope is it’ll prevent crowds from forming at public boat launch, which happens to have a private parking lot. This has caused jurisdiction issues.

“Steiner Ranch was calling the county to police it. The city can’t police the water because it’s owned by the county,” said Steiner Ranch Resident, Bill Whitman. “The county didn’t want to police the parking lot because it’s owned by the city. Its a big juridsictional mess.”

Thursday, Steiner Ranch residents share their account of what the launch has looked like in recent weeks.

It would probably take people two to three hours to get in and out of the water, 10-15 trucks lined up,” said Steiner Ranch resident Ernie Wright. “I haven’t been able to find a place to launch my boat accept for Steiner Ranch. That was such a choke point.”

Steiner Ranch resident Ernie Wright now has another option. 

Travis County recently opened up Mary Quinlan Park, Pennybacker bridge and the Emma Long boat ramps in time for Memorial Day weekend.

Only time will tell if Steiner Ranch’s  temporary fence will solve the crowding issue there.  The HOA says it plans to keep the fence up until it can find another solution.

The HOA said in a letter to its residents:

“We are looking into car passes (stickers) for the homeowners’ cars and a gate system that will utilize key fobs for Steiner Ranch residents to access the boat club parking lot. We hope to have a solution in place by the time the amenities reopen from the COVID 19 closures. Low contact amenities like trails and tennis courts have been, and will remain, open for our residents to enjoy at this time.”

Continued operation of the parks in this capacity will be determined by the ability to have access to necessary personal protective equipment for staff, adequate staff to manage/maintain the parks, and visitor compliance with park rules.

Day use fees will be charged at fee-based parks (cash only), and limited public restrooms will be available at most parks.    

The following Travis County Parks will be open for day use from 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.                                               

  • Pace Bend Park (Collier boat ramp only) 
  •  Loop 360 Park (boat ramp open) 
  • Mansfield Dam Park (boat ramp only, no day-use activities)           
  • Arkansas Bend Park (boat ramp open)                 
  • Cypress Creek Park (boat ramp open)                   
  • Mary Quinlan Park (boat ramp open)                   
  • Webberville Park (boat ramp open)                      
  • Little Webberville Park (boat ramp open)            
  • Richard Moya Park (trails only)
  • Northeast Metro Park (trails only)
  • Southeast Metro Park (trails, fishing)
  • East Metro Park (trails, fishing)
  • Allen Park (trails only)
  • Windmill Run Park (trails only)
  •  Reimers Ranch Park  

Amenities in these parks remain closed or not operational:

  • Camping
  • Athletic fields, swimming pool, skate park, BMX track
  • Commercial use of boat ramps
  • Park playscapes
  • Pavilions / group shelters
  • Water fountains

The following Travis County Parks locations remain CLOSED:                     

  • Bob Wentz Park                    
  • Hamilton Pool Reserve
  • Del Valle Softball Fields 
  • Hippie Hollow Park                                    
  • Sandy Creek Park
  • Barkley Meadows Park                              
  • Fritz Hughes Park
  • Tom Hughes Park                                       
  • Selma Hughes Park
  • Ben E. Fisher Park       

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