PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

June 14, 2013

Boat launch needs repairs, but who will do them?

PORT ARTHUR — It’s no secret that repairs need to be made to the Taylor Bayou boat launch, but who will make those repairs seems to be anyone’s guess.

Though Port Arthur police patrol the popular fishing area located a little more than five miles south of the city limits on Texas 73, Police Chief Mark Blanton said the city does not manage the property, nor does the county.

What he’s been told, Blanton said, is the bayou boat ramp was at one time managed by the county, but is now under the jurisdiction of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Michael “Shane” Sinegal, Precinct 3 county commissioner, is under the same impression, but that’s not what a spokesperson for Texas Parks and Wildlife indicated.

“Our agency provided funding to build the boat ramp, but we are not an active manager who maintains it,” Tom Harvey, TPWD branch chief, said in a telephone interview Friday.

During a report to Port Arthur City Council Tuesday, Blanton said he had researched the boat launch at the request of District 5 City Councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis.

“The boat ramp on Taylor Bayou needs maintenance done to it,” Lewis said. “The state says it is not there’s, the county says not there’s, the Dept. of Transportation says it is not there’s, and it’s not the city’s.”

Randy Kirkgard, 57, of Port Acres, often fishes Taylor Bayou. He is beginning to see people fall off of the ramp quite frequently.

“I have seen five or six people fall off of it,” Kirkgard said. “The left  dock when you pull up to the board dock is attached only on two corners. That makes it bounce up and down. When you pull up straight to the boat dock, the one on the right is sturdy, the one on the left is not. ”

Kirkgard said he took his concerns to Port Arthur’s city manager, ended up speaking with the assistant city manager, who did some checking and said it was the county’s responsibility.

“Then I called Mr. Sinegal, and they said, no, it belongs to the city,” Kirkgard said. “I do know it is a danger, and a liability.”

During his report to the City Council Tuesday, Blanton said his research indicated though TPWD is charged with maintaining the boat launch, though the state agency does not have money allocated to do so.

In a telephone interview Friday, Sinegal said the county would not be opposed to entering into an interlocal agreement with TPWD, but did not have the money to fund repairs to the boat ramp.

“We can’t touch that park unless we have an interlocal agreement,” Sinegal said. “And, we would need funding.”

The county, Sinegal said. would have no problem maintaining the boat ramp once it is repaired. County work crews maintain several boat ramps throughout the county, including three in Precinct  3.

Sinegal said the boat ramp, and the needed repairs, has been an ongoing complaint since he was elected Commissioner five years ago.

In addition to the state of disrepair, the area is often attracts a criminal element.

“There are people sleeping in cars out there,” Sinegal said. “I’ve been told it is a place that attracts illegal activity, such as illegal drug use.”

Sinegal said he  planned to ask the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and the constable’s office to increase patrol around the area. He also plans to facilitate a meeting between Parks and Wildlife officials, the sheriff’s and constable’s offices, and the chief of police.

“We do have a problem there,” Sinegal said.

Those problems, are the county’s concern, Don Rao, Jefferson County Engineering Department director, said in a telephone interview Friday.

According to Rao, the boat ramp is on Texas Department of Transportation property. TxDot, he said, maintains the bridge that goes down to the ramp. Since TPWD cannot own the ramp, it became the property of the county.

Any major repairs, Rao said, are made from TPWD grant funding. The county, he said, maintains the parking lot and performs routine maintenance.

The county, he said, does have an interlocal agreement with TPWD to perform routine maintenance at Taylor Bayou, including those  needed at the parking lot and the boat ramp.

Whenever people call to complain about the bridge, Rao said he refers them to the Precinct 3 Road Superintendent Mark Redwine.

While Rao believes the county has an agreement with TPWD, Tim Hogsett, TPWD director of Recreation Grants Program, said Taylor Bayou is not among TPWD’s inventory.

After someone from the Port Arthur area called him a few days ago, Hogsett said he investigated further, and found a hand-written reference on a hand-typed historical document in his possession.

“I have this hand-typed inventory that is 20-plus years old,” Hogsett said. “The ramp shows up there in, it shows it transferred and deleted, but I have no files on it whatsoever.”

Hogsett said he understood there were some problems with the ramp, and that the agency is not opposed to helping fund the repairs as long as they are not too expensive,” Hogsett said, “The county, or city, would need to sponsor the work, and then be reimbursed.”

Hogsett said  he plans to call the county this next week to see if anyone there is interested in working jointly to make the repairs.

E-mail: skoonce@panews.com

Twitter: skooncePANews

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