County eyes limited public access for El Rancho Cima

Hays County officials have their eyes on making public a portion of El Rancho Cima, the 2,382-acre former Boy Scout ranch along the Blanco River in Hays and Comal counties, between Wimberley and Fischer.

However, public access will be controlled with restrictions similar to those in effect at Jacob’s Well.

Visitors would be required to reserve passes for four-hour swimming windows and a park ranger would accompany visitors for the entire visit, county officials announced during a public meeting Oct. 9.

The proposals and planning for El Rancho Cima are in the early stages and more public comment will become available, Natural Resources Coordinator Alexandra Thompson said.

The park capacity would be between 60 to 80 people. Visitors would be required to make reservations for either an early swim time of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or an afternoon time of 2 to 6 p.m. Passes would cost $10 per a visitor.

“The long-term plan is for the property to be available to the public, limiting the number of visitors at one time via a reservation system,” Thompson said.

The Blanco River would be available to the public during swim seasons of May through Sept. 30.

Upon arrival, visitors would park in an existing parking lot and be escorted by a park ranger. County officials are uncertain if an additional parking spaces will needed.

“People who show up a little early will get to unpack and then a park ranger will bring the group to the swimming area,” Thompson said.

Access points to the river would be constructed in a way that would preserve the vegetation surrounding the river, and would make entry into the river easier and safer.

Hiking trails are under consideration. However, hiking would not be allowed during the endangered golden-cheeked warbler mating season, which is March through late August.

Pavilions would be available to rent for $20. Each pavilion has a picnic table and shade surrounded by open space and secluded by trees.

“These pavilions are very spacious and wide. It gives people a lot of room not only for their group and picnic area, but they have enough space to play flag football or Frisbee. The next pavilion would be 30 feet away or farther,” Thompson said.

Currently, El Rancho Cima is in the early stages of development and as master planning and negotiations with the Nature Conservancy proceed, a timeline will also be developed. As the project progresses, there will be other opportunities for input, either in Commissioners Court meetings or in meetings organized by the Precinct 3 Commissioner Lon Shell.

Some funding being utilized for environmental mitigation was approved by the voters in a 2016 transportation bond.

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