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2016-08-04

Peaceful Valley implores court, ‘Put peace back in our lives!’

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

According to residents, Peaceful Valley Road is anything but peaceful now that the Medina River is running and summer is in full swing.
During a meeting on Thursday, July 28, a contingent asked Bandera County Commissioners to intervene and establish some law and order in one of the county’s little pieces of paradise. Residents implored commissioners to “keep the public from parking, stopping or standing on the bridge.”
Speaking as a private citizen, County Attorney Janna Lindig, a resident of Peaceful Valley Road, noted that 16 signs prohibited illegal activities, which included stopping, standing or parking on the bridge. However, she added that the signs have failed to deter daytrippers from using the bridge as diving boards, boat launches and, in one case, an actual dining facility.
“Last year, a group of people set up a picnic table on the bridge,” she said. “Things have gotten out of hand because people assume nobody will do their jobs.”
Concurring, resident David Primmer voiced concerns about public safety. “Signs prohibit standing on or jumping off the bridge, but that does not stop anyone,” he said, bringing up the specter of possible litigation should a swimmer be injured. He also decried the amount of trash left behind by weekend visitors.
“After one weekend, I filled four trash bags and took them to the trash collection station,” he said. “It cost me $16 to dispose of other people’s refuse.”
Primmer advocated aggressive ticketing of vehicles illegally parked, noting that each ticket would enrich the county’s coffers by as much as $200.
Agreeing with Primmer’s assessment, resident Christine Jackson noted, “The amount of trash is amazing.” Regarding public safety, she said that vehicles are routinely backed up to Highway 16 on weekends while daytrippers unload on and around the bridge. “Traffic is horrendous,” she said.
Jackson also took umbrage that adults allow “their rambunctious children” to wander around people’s private property – another possible source of litigation should an accident occur.
“When cars are parked illegally on either side of Peaceful Valley Road, two vehicles cannot pass one another. There’s no room,” Lindig told the court. “During a medical emergency, an ambulance couldn’t cross the bridge.” She asked for increased patrols on weekends by the Bandera County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
Judge Richard Evans suggested that Precinct 3 Constable Don Walters be contacted about the problem. Evans also noted that constables face the same problems on weekends throughout the county, which, as was noted, “… only occur when the rivers are running.”
Precinct 4 Constable Rod Chalmers said that areas along the Sabinal River and English Crossing are also overrun with visitors during the weekends. “We’ve put up signs on other bridges and crossing,” he said – to no avail, it seems.
“If you give tickets and maximize (the fines), it will stop illegal parking,” opined Precinct 3 Commissioners Andy Wilkerson.
Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Lynn Holt said that commissioners court must approve each sign installation before ticketing and fining can occur. Bruce Eliker, a former employee with the Texas Department of Transportation and presumptive Precinct 2 Commissioner, added that installation of TxDot signs must also be authorized by commissioners court.
Evans had found a prior reference to signs being installed at Peace Valley Road on May 21, 2010, but apparently the court had taken no action to authorize the sign placement.
“So, the installed signs are unenforceable at this time because there has been no authorization?” asked Precinct 2 Commissioners Bobby Harris.
“If vehicles are parked on a main travel way or bridge, that is illegal and we can enforce that,” said Sheriff Daniel “Dan” Butts. He added, “We can increase patrols, but we can’t be there 24 hours a day.”
It was noted that a deputy had been summoned to the Peaceful Valley area after a complaint was filed, but no tickets were issued because the unnamed deputy apparently “…didn’t have a ticket book on him.”
Harris suggested that one of the BCSO reserve deputies be assigned to patrol Peaceful Valley on weekends. Evans then “volunteered” Lindig to set up a meeting with TxDOT officials, constables and troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety to discuss viable solutions that discourage illegal parking throughout the county at bridges and low water crossing. After the meeting, the court would authorize installation of new and earlier signs, according to Evans.
Peaceful Valley Road runs from Highway 16 North to FM 3240. Paved areas on Highway 16 North, where it intersects with Peaceful Valley, provide parking for those who want to access the river at that point.
In related business, commissioners rejected TxDOT’s Federal Off-System Bridge Program Projects for Local Fund Participation for bridge rehabilitations at Peaceful Valley and Patterson Valley. Each rehab would cost $550,000 and the county’s match is 10 percent.
“These bridges have survived a long time and we have other places that are more critical,” Evans said. English Crossing, which routinely washes out during heavy rain, did not qualify for the program.
As one resident of Peaceful Valley Road pointed out, “The bridge is totally adequate for traffic, but not as a park. If you spend a half a million dollars on it, you’d only make a better park.”