Questions surround $2.5 million dollar fence in Austin


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist DATHAN HULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

Posted on January 31, 2014 at 11:17 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 31 at 11:20 PM

AUSTIN -- It’s one of the most scenic drives in Austin leading to one of the largest parks, but before you get to Emma Long Metropolitan Park off City Park Road, you’ll drive past a new 8-foot-tall fence now going up along both sides of the road.

“You’ll see just how unattractive the fence is. It’s an ugly fence,” said nearby homeowner John Lefner.

It’s a deer fence surrounding the Balcones Canyonland Preserve. The City of Austin has been working on putting up the fence surrounding more than 30,000 acres for 10 years.

When finished within the next year, the fence will have cost $2.5 million to construct.

William Conrad with the City of Austin says among several things, it will stop animals from going onto people’s property.

“Skunks, raccoons, coyotes: our fence helps manage those populations,” said Conrad.

However, Lefner says part of living near a preserve is dealing with the wildlife.

“The deer and the coyotes are here. You just have to learn to live with them. That’s just nature and that’s what makes it so special," Lefner said.

He said he also feels like the fence is keeping people out, and according to Conrad, that’s exactly when the fence is intended to do.

“Our federal permit requires us to fence our property in a manner that restricts human access,” said Conrad.

He tells KVUE that keeping people out ensures endangered species in the Balcones preserve, like the Golden Cheeked Warbler, stay safe. He said the fence also protects against fires.

“If we keep people out of there and manage access, we limit the ability for people to go in and start fires," Conrad said.

As crews continue clearing trees to install the fence around the preserve, Lefner asks that the city consider putting in openings along the fence for access.

“If we have to look at that fence, why can’t we at least enjoy the property that the taxpayers have paid for?" Lefner said.

“In places like Colorado, they turn those preserves into parks for the citizens who pay for it and they put walking trails. People adhere to the rules. I don’t see why we have to keep the public out,” said Lefner.

Once the project is finished by the end of the year, there will be a total of 7,500 linear feet of fencing surrounding more than 30,000 acres of preserve.