COUNTY COMMISSIONERS APPROVE HATCHETTVILLE (WE'RE DOOMED)
May 13, 2014
Gene Lowenthal reports: As expected, the Commissioners accepted the Masonwood Master Development Plan, claiming that thry do not have the authority to withhold acceptance given that Masonwood is abiding by the basic County subdivision rules (the County has no authority to restrict density, for example).
Now I'm no expert, but it seems like there must have been some grounds on which they could have done something to keep this oversized, out of place, environmentally insensitive monstrosity from invading our world. Just sayin'...
BAD NEWS ON THE HATCHETTVILLE FRONT
January 11, 2014
Yesterday morning, the board of directors of the elegantly named Western Travis County Public Utility Agency (WTCPUA), which is the local water utility, met and did the unthinkable. They agreed to allow the Masonwood West (AKA Hatchettville) development to receive water for an obscene number of cookie-cutter homes on miniscule lots.
As currently platted, the development would contain over 1600 homes on city-sized lots, creating a suburban-style environmental and traffic nightmare for our little corner of paradise. The Bee Cave Bee has been providing excellent coverage of the issue. Here is their latest article about it. Another good source of info is a website called HPR Matters.
If you really want to dig down for a historical perspective on our struggles to hold back rampant development here along Hamilton Pool Road, scroll down and start reading. You'll find lots more on the Developments page, Hearings page, LCRA Pipeline page and a whole mess of stories on the Archives page. It's been a long struggle and it ain't even close to over yet. Why is it that people look at the Hill Country and say "Now there's a gorgeous place, how can we destroy it?"
John Hatchett, the owner of the property on which the insane "Hatchettville" development is fixing to sprout, was once one of our allies. He stood shoulder to shoulder with us in opposition to another development that would have intruded on his personal paradise. We lost that battle and I guess John just doesn't care anymore. He, and his co-conspirator Jim Meredith (of Masonwood) are now of the irresponsible development, "who cares" school of neighborhood destruction but hey, profit is what really matters, right?
BAD WEBMASTER HAS IGNORED THIS SITE
November 15, 2013
Hard to believe that someone could be such a slacker, but here I am, in the flesh. My apologies, friends and neighbors, for ignoring this site for the past 3 years. My excuses are weak and I won't even try to pardon myself by bringing up my bouts with Hodgkins lymphoma, spine surgery, nerve problems (I've always had a lot of nerve, people tell me) and a brain tumor, although some might consider them legitimate excuses.
Much has happened (outside of my physical problems) since I last published here. We've had big fires, the usual floods (see below) and other natural challenges but the biggest challenge to our peaceful, country way of life has been of the human kind. People love this area and it looks like they are trying to love it to death. Since I started this website in 2004, we have been threatened by waterline promoters, road and bridge "improvement" promoters and greedy developers. Now, even more dense development and a car dealership are the two current bogiemen and they are doosies.
It is too depressing for me to go into the details but, fortunately, other people are making noise and joining in the fight. Some of those people have taken on the task of getting the word out and I want to applaud and thank them profusely.
For starters, Hugh Winkler started the HPR Discuss listserv some years ago and has since migrated it over to a Google Group, which is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Now there is a new website called HPR Matters, which is at http://hprmatters.com, which focuses on fighting dense development.
There is also a website in opposition to the proposed Covert car dealership in Bee Cave, which can be found at http://nocovertinbeecave.com.
And there is a rapidly growing Facebook group with the same name. Look it up.
GOOD NEIGHBOR AWARD GOES TO GOOD NEIGHBOR JAN
September 9, 2010
The County probably would have taken a week to get a loader out here to clear the mud left at Hammett's Crossing by yesterday's flood. But fear not, here comes Jan Wolfe to the rescue. And Dave Boyd must be one of the luckiest guys around because he was just innocently coming across from the other side and would never have been able to make it up the hill through that mud if not for Jan and her tractor. THANKS JAN!
JOHN AHRNS GIVES HIS LAST WESTCAVE PRESERVE TOUR
January 31, 2010
Today, local treasure, teacher, naturalist, area historian and guardian, and our friend John Ahrns led his last official tour of Westcave Preserve for an enthusiastic group of neighbors and well-wishers. John is retiring and moving away, and he and Brenda will be missed by us and all the neighbors out here. Here are a few pictures of John on his last tour.
PART OF WESTCAVE CLIFF FALLS OFF
October 27, 2009
I guess the heavy rains were too much for these rocks on the edge of Westcaves cliff overlooking Hamilton Pool Road. Some time this afternoon, they came down and took this small pecan tree with them.
COUNTY DECIDES TO POSTPONE HAMMETT'S CROSSING REVISIONS INDEFINITELY
October 2, 2009
The following email was sent out today by Steve Manilla, the Travis County engineer who had been driving the movement to modify the Hammett's Crossing bridge. This is reason to rejoice. The plans have been put on hold. Only problem is that those plans may rear their ugly head again one of these days so we must remain diligent. Just to make sure our position is clear, please sign this petition and send it back to the address on the bottom. If you signed a petition a year or two ago, please still sign this new one, which asks that our beautiful, historic bridge just be left alone, exactly as it is. I will deliver the signed petitions to our County Commissioner, Karen Huber. Thanks for your support, now, here's what Steve Manilla wrote:
Today I was advised by TxDot that they are discontinuing work on projects that they are fairly confident won't be funded for construction for two or more years. They identified the Hammetts Crossing bridge as one such project and TxDot staff will therefore not be available to evaluate design alternatives or respond to design questions until the project is funded. After speaking with Commissioner Huber, we have decided that we will also stop work on the project. Therefore we won't be meeting on October 7 at the site or on November 4 at Westcave Preserve.
The question of the safety of the bridge has been discussed throughout our communications and I'd like to make it clear that the bridge is structurally safe. It was examined by TxDot to determine if it is sound enough to be incorporated into the project by widening it, and it is. The narrow deck width and lack of bridge rail and guardrail are traffic safety hazards that will eventually be corrected. For those interested in learning more about safety standards for bridges they are based upon design guidelines developed by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
Conditions will naturally change over time and the bridge will continue to be inspected at two year intervals but unless the bridge becomes structurally unsafe our work on it during this delay will most likely be limited to removing debris and repairing damage caused by flood events.
The switchbacks and overtopping frequency are safety issues that would need to be addressed through a separate County project. The County's 2005 Bond Referendum provided funds for the design of safety improvements for Hamilton Pool Road between RR12 and the river. When we start into that process next year we will take a closer look at what it would take to correct these issues, but as mentioned in my September 22 e-mail, I think it will be difficult to justify the expense. The community will be invited to participate in the design process for the safety improvements.
Please don't hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss this further.
TNR Public Works
YET ANOTHER IDIOT TRUCKDRIVER IGNORES THE SIGNS
September 30, 2009
The guy driving this enormous truck somehow thought he could make it around the curves and across the Hammett's Crossing bridge. While he was waiting for help to arrive, I asked him if he had missed the signs starting two miles back, warning against attempting it. He said that he had seen the signs, whereupon I inquired as to whether he just didn't think that those signs applied to him. His excuse was that he "had no place to turn around."
My opinion is that there were at least two places he could have turned around. But I also think that at least part of the problem is poorly placed signs. I've spoken with Travis County Traffic Manager David Greear about it and he was very friendly and agreeable. Now let's see if the signs get moved.
PEDERNALES ELECTRIC COOP REFORM EFFORTS GET THEIR OWN PAGE
September 19, 2009
OK, it's taken me a while but I finally got around to doing something with this website. You can see that, up to now, my most recent post was in February. Maybe I'm back. We'll see. Meanwhile, if you would like to review all the articles I posted here since the PEC struggles started unfolding in 2006, go to the PEC page. To look at other old articles that have been removed from this homepage, please go to the Archives page.
HAMILTON POOL DECLARED ENDANGERED (BUT THEN, WHO DIDN'T KNOW THAT?)
February 11, 2009
This morning a press conference was held on the Capital steps by an organization named Preservation Texas. At that conference, it was announced that Hamilton Pool has been declared one of the 11 most endangered sites in Texas. The endangered designation was applied for by HPR neighbor Nell Penridge. Here are some pictures I took at the event. And you can click here to download a small MP3 audio file of Nell's speech. Way to go, Nell!
STILL WEIRD - FIRST NIGHT 2009 PROVIDES FURTHER EVIDENCE
me kooky but
I love a parade - always have. I dig the color, the spectacle
and even the corny home town folksiness. I get off
on seeing the delighted faces of the kids who watch
participate in them. Ages ago I played drums in the
Westbury High School marching
band. I took a break from marching for about 44 years but,
for the past couple of years I've been playing occasionally
a loosely organized, traditional New Orleans style assemblage
- mainly during a yearly peace parade called the "Million
Musician March". Here's a pic,
taken before (or maybe after) the 2007 march, of me playing
along with my friend, singer-songwriter Frank
Meyer (playing guitar), the
accordian and the magical Richard Bowden on fiddle (I don't
know the other guy).
year, I joined the newly-formed Blozn Tuches Marching Band
(organized and directed by Datri Bean), which marched as
part of the Grand Procession in Austin's "First
Night" new years eve celebration. We were integrated
into the Austin Bike Zoo's amazing bicycle powered animal
Since I was marching, I didn't get to shoot any pix or video
but I did take a few quick stills of
some fellow band members at the dress rehearsal. I also shot this
video of the rehearsal before I put down my camera and
picked up my drum.
with the spectacular parade, which I didn't actually see
(I mainly saw the back of Thomas, the baritone sax player),
there were many musical acts, dance performances and art
specifically for the event. Most notable for me was the Resolution
Clock - a huge (34' tall,) wooden, fully functional clock,
that was painstakingly built by 30 people over a long period
of time. People were asked to write their resolutions all
over the clock. Here are 2
pix I took of the clock before
the parade. Then, during the celebration, this amazingly
it and then, in the "burning man" tradition, it burned
to the ground. I didn't shoot it but somebody posted a YouTube
video of the burn. You can find out more about
all the events and installations from the First
HENRY BROOKS WINS A ROUND IN BATTLE WITH CONOCO PHILLIPS
October, Henry Brooks has been trying to keep Conoco Phillips from
doing more extensive pipeline maintenance at the valves they
his land along RR12. Back then, I posted a report with
photos and video, showing the work being done and the impact
having on the land. Recently, Conoco Phillips had sent their
condemnation man up from Houston to offer Henry a payment to
give the company more access and allow another major maintenance
procedure to be done. Well, Henry just called to tell me that
the condemnation man came back yesterday to inform him that they
would not be doing the work at the valves on Henry's property
afterall. They will. instead, be doing it from their valves in
Johnson City. Chalk up a win for the Barton Creek watershed,
which will now not have to be subjected to the presence of all
COUNTY COMMISSIONERS CONSIDER REQUESTING DOWNSIZED WESTERN HPR
at the Travis County Commissioners Court meeting, item 20 on
the agenda was consideration of a proposal by Public Works Director
Steve Manilla. Manilla was suggesting that maybe the Commissioners
should ask CAMPO to revise their plan for a 4 lane road all the
way to the Blanco County line and instead end the 4-lane at the
still non-existent Reimers-Peacock Road. Funny that Manilla should
be doing this now since it is our understanding that he was
the one who suggested the upgrade to 4 lanes in the first place.
A bunch of neighbors showed up at the meeting and about 8 of
us spoke, collectively making a strong case in support of an
even more extensive downgrade, beginning at RR12. Here's
PHILLIPS MAKES A MESS AT HENRY BROOKS' PLACE
other day, Henry invited me over to photograph the mess being created
by work on one of the pipelines that go through his property. It's
not a pretty picture. Check out the story and the pictures here.
I've also posted a little (1 minute 21 seconds long) video clip
on Google Video. Henry's our own local movie star and he shines
again in this
STUCK TRUCK AT HAMMETT'S CROSSING
is it about truck drivers that makes them think they can
take their big rigs anywhere they want? I hope this driver
was severely punished (though somehow I doubt it) for ignoring
the size limit sign before barreling down the switchbacks
and attempting to cross the bridge. He got stuck here at
about 4:00pm and they didn't get him unstuck until around
10:00 so many neighbors had an extra 45 minutes added to
their afternoon commutes.
officious Travis County sheriff's deputies wouldn't even
allow anyone to park at the top and walk across the bridge
so my rapidly warming groceries and I had to go back to
the circuitous Fall Creek Road route (always a gorgeous
drive, at least) and I missed my evening swim. Grrrrr!
CRANE DUMPS OVER ON HAMILTON POOL ROAD
March 19, 2007
how these wheels got in the air? Check out the story and
pictures of the
check out one citizen's response with home
WATCH A MOVIE?
have started posting some of my short video pieces on YouTube
and have, for your viewing pleasure, created a page on this
site where some of the videos are embedded. Go to my Videos
you will be able to view "Texas Coal Wars (Part 1)" which
was shot Tuesday. February 20th at the Travis County Courthouse.
It tells the story of the citizens who got an injunction to
stop Governor Perry's coal plant fast-tracking. On that page
you will also find "River Glyph", "International
Festival of Canoes" and other shorts. Or, you can
go directly to my
YouTube home page to view all the videos
I have posted there. Enjoy!
SCARY - THE STATESMAN STILL LIKES MY LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
I always like to see them in print, it makes me just a little
nervous that the Austin American Statesman seems to select
a my letters for publication fairly frequently. I only occasionally
agree with the paper's editorial position and other oft-published
letters come from the rabidly right wing Stavrovsky family.
Am I unwittingly fitting in with their political agenda? Anyway,
here's my (4th) letter that they published on June
14, 2006 along with the personal response I got from the
reporter who wrote the article my letter referred to. March
18th's issue included this
letter, my third that they've accepted, slamming the LCRA
and it's iron-fisted honcho, Joe
Beal. Other letters appeared February
22, 2005 and March 24, 2005, about which there is a short
EN ROUTE TO MADRONE RANCH TURNS WRONG WAY AND JACKKNIFES
truck drivers are blaming it on bad directions. Two enormous
trucks on their way to Madrone Ranch via RR12 were told to go
"6 miles past 12" on Hamilton Pool Road. They naturally assumed
that meant turn left off of 12.
discovered their mistake way too late and this truck turned around
at Westcave Preserve. The jackknife happened when he was trying
to make it back up the hill at the switchback just east of the
course, he should never have taken that oversized rig across
the Hammett's Crossing bridge.
POWER TRANSFORMER COMES DOWN - STARTS 30 ACRE GRASS FIRE
16th at about 11:00pm we heard the first siren go by. At
first it was just an uh oh, an ambulance, someone's hurt.
Then, when a procession of sirens shook us out of bed, we
realized it was something bigger than that. At about midnight,
our friend Hugh, who lives 5 miles to the east along HPR,
called to say that there was a fire a quarter mile from our
house. They could see the glow from their place. A few minutes
later, our electricity went out. In a panic, Annie and I
gathered up important papers and sped up the road, where
we found that several fire departments had already gotten
the fire under control and that sherrif's deputies had evacuated
the few residents at Hammett's Crossing subdivision. Thanks
to the quick response of the Hudson's Bend Fire Dept. from
Bee Cave, Pedernales Fire Dept. out of Johnson City and a
couple of others, all that went up was about 30 acres of
grass - no people, animals, buildings or even trees were
lost to the blaze. The fire, which burned parts of 3 adjacent
properties, turned out to be, as Ted Stewart (one of the
property owners) put it, "a perfect controlled burn." Relieved
levity aside, with all the wind whipping up and down the
hills, that might very well have not been the case. Way too
close for comfort!
the great job by the fire departments, a few embers had remained
and were still smouldering the morning of January 18th. This
caused another small fire to break out on Suzy Wolforth's
place. Sherre Young caught wind of it and called the Hudson
Bend fire guys back. They did a thorough sweep of the area
(by daylight, this time). Here's hoping!
next morning, a few curious neighbors showed up in time to help
Ted rehang the heavy, steel gates, which the fire departments had
to knock down in order to get into the Hammett's Crossing subdivision
to work the fire and evacuate residents.
MANY WRECKS IS IT GOING TO TAKE?
it's hard to tell from the photo, this big cedar got good and
smashed New Years Eve. In fact, it was hit so hard that it moved
a bit downhill. Fortunately, there was another tree just below
it to keep it, and the vehicle that plowed into it, from tumbling
down the steep, 100 (or so) foot drop. This is the second time
in less than a month that someone went over the edge at this
sharp curve near the top of the switchbacks by Norsworthy Ranch
just above the Pedernales River. So far, there haven't been any
deaths at this danger-spot but wouldn't one be too many? Seems
like more urgent signage would help and probably a guardrail
would do the trick.
HOG BITES THE DUST
I guess nobody out here has any great love for these feral
hogs that have been proliferating and digging up acreage. And
understand (though I've never tried it) that they make good
eating. But in the last two weeks, two more have shown up on
the HPR roadside along our walk route. These have clearly been
butchered by human hands. Again, I have no problem with people
killing and eating the beasts but how about disposing of the
carcasses in a less public fashion? This method exposes any innocent
person happening by to the unsightly sight, disgusting stench
and huge buzzard congregations that accompany any roadkill. Whoever
is doing this, PLEASE STOP!
MISLEADS THE NEIGHBORS AGAIN - NO FIRE PROTECTION
still not quite attaining "public enemy number 1" status, the
LCRA seems to be vying for the title. Our diligent neighbor Gene
Lowenthal dug up this little disclaimer on page 10 of their "terms
and conditions for retail treated water" in our service region
(Western Travis County):
2.11. – Fire Protection
purpose of the treated water system owned and operated by the LCRA
is to provide treated water service to residential and
Non-residential Customers. The LCRA does not guarantee the
availability of water for fire protection purposes. Fire hydrants installed within
the LCRA’s distribution system are provided at the convenience
of the LCRA and do not imply any responsibility on the part of the
LCRA to meet fire flow requirements of local, county, state, or federal
anyone suckered into signing up for the new pipeline's outrageously
expensive water (we've heard costs as much as $10,000 for the
tap and $75/month for basic service), in the hopes of getting
lower homeowners' insurance rates, is in for a rude awakening.
Instead of providing good pressure, LCRA has once again proven
that they suck!
JUST IN (12-9-05): The Statesman published my letter to the editor
on the above subject. Here's the letter.
LOCAL TREASURE WESTCAVE PRESERVE
you haven't had the Westcave tour, you are missing something
You might want
Check it out at www.westcave.org.
GROUP CREATES ANDY GOLDSWORTHY TRIBUTE ON PEDERNALES
Glyph, an informal group of neighbors and friends got together
on New Years Day, 2005,
to create several pieces of "beach art" here on the
river. To get a gander at what we did, go to the BeachArt website.
December 30, 1941 - February 13, 2002
was 7 years ago February 13th that our dear friend and neighbor,
environmental and anti-nuke activist, anti-death penalty activist,
green building enthusiast, teacher, former Texas gubernatorial
George Bush) and all around sweet and wonderful person, Susan
died. We will never forget
she did for us and for the Earth. Please visit the memorial
website Annie and I built for Susan. Please
also check out her book on the death penalty in Texas which was
completed posthumously by
Susan Bright and a group of Susan Lee's friends and family. It
is entitled "No Justice: No Victory - The Death Penalty
and is available from Plain
PLANS FOR 20,000 HPR CAR TRIPS PER DAY (OY VEY!)
Lowenthal wrote on 10/22/04:
some of us got to hear a presentation from TxDot. Part of what
into a growth projection for various areas, and then translate
that into expected burdens on various roads.
got an earful of what would happen in our area over the next
25 years if the only forces at work were market forces. Daily car
trips on 71 where it crosses 620 would increase from 40,000 today
to 106,000 in 2030 - about as much as MoPac handles today. They
figure that the eastern portion of 71 will need to be a six-lane
expressway by that time.
eastern stretch of Hamilton Pool Road would grow from 6500
trips per day to 20,000 trips by 2030 according to their studies.
point, they say,
HPR will need to be widened to 4 lanes and maybe straightened to
accommodate such a load.
the saying goes, “sprawl happens”, which is to
say that it goes where the market takes it. We need to have a “smart
growth” concept in place in Southwestern Travis County so
that sprawl doesn’t happen here.
CROSSING IS NOT PASSABLE
(as of Wednesday,
5/28/14, 12:00 noon)
can check the flow yourself. Go to http://waterdata.usgs.gov/tx/nwis/uv?08153500
the flow is 800 cfs or less,
chances are you can safely
cross the bridge. This is
not an absolute.
You can certainly not trust
the sign in front of the
County maintenance building
at the foot
of Hamilton Pool Road. They
tend to put it up late and
leave it up long after the
is clear. And, when Lake
Travis backs up to Hammett's
Crossing, all bets are off.
| Here's a tryptic of 3 images shot within an hour and 50 minutes of each other, from dry to covered. Powerful river, eh?
archived Hammett's Crossing