New penalty planned for entering closed Barton Creek Greenbelt

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — First responders say when the rain comes like it did Wednesday afternoon, the Barton Creek Greenbelt can be deadly, but people are still not heeding their warnings and taking their chances.

A large sign hangs on a metal gate at the entrance to the Greenbelt across from the Taco Deli on Spicewood Springs Road. It reads the trail is “closed” and there’s not room to go around any of the signs. People were still going up or under to get onto the trail.

Walking along the trails when the park is closed is trespassing but police will only tell you to leave. There is no penalty for someone caught on the trail. It’s only a park rule. The city is trying to change that.

Shelley Parks from the park department told KXAN they’re trying to get a city ordinance so there’s a penalty attached to breaking the rules.

With permission from the city’s Parks Department, KXAN went down there to see if people were breaking park rules. We found that many were. Nobody would give us their names because they knew they were breaking park rules.

One couple with two dogs asked me what we were doing. “Seeing how many people were down here,” we responded.

The man jokingly said, “Nobody of course, the trail is closed.”

A few minutes later one man came down the main trail to see what the water looked like. He joined three teenagers and they all stood and took pictures of the water racing by.

The most memorable visitors were two mountain bikers who entered the park when rain was still pouring down. They did make it out and back to the top covered in mud. Authorities do not recommend biking when the Greenbelt is closed.

Parks and Recreation says the Austin Police Department is patrolling the area, but it’s a big park and we didn’t see any officers Wednesday. The Austin Fire Department is in charge of the water and if you’re caught in the water when the Greenbelt is closed. That could be a Class C Misdemeanor and a fine of up to $500.

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