The “last free area at Lake Brownwood,” is being destroyed by some of its users, and, said one of “The Rocks” most frequent visitors, “it is time to put an end to the abuse.”
The Rocks, which are located near the dam on property leased by Kirkland Docks and so named because the area features sheer-faced walls up to 30 feet high, has for years been a popular swimming and rock climbing spot.
Ben Chamberlain of Brownwood, who rock climbs in the area, said he goes to The Rocks several times a week to climb, and hauls out at least a bag of trash on each visit.
“At some point this area went from being considered an area like a state park to a trash receptacle. That’s really the shame of it right there,” Chamberlain said. “I usually take about a bag out each visit, but during the summer there will be enough to fill two to three bags. If people want access, they need to get involved in the cleanup.
“It all starts with picking up trash. How hard is that?” Chamberlain asked.
Andrea Swaim of Odessa, who recently spent the weekend at Kirkland Docks, thanked Chamberlain for his efforts.
“I used to come down here when I was 5 years old and it was beautiful. When we came down two years ago it was awful. It’s amazing what y’all have done. It looks awesome compared to how it was looking,” she said.
Chamberlain told members of the Brown County Water Improvement District at their April meeting that he regularly hauls out feminine hygiene products and soiled underclothing, as well as evidence of alcohol use and substance abuse. It’s also not uncommon to see where people have relieved themselves on the trails instead of in nearby restrooms, he said.
Saturday, evidence of all of the above was visible, even though the weather had not turned completely hot. Chamberlain said he believes that the trash is being left by people who visit “Swimming Rock.”
Since it’s been cold there hasn’t been a lot of activity, but Chamberlain said there’s still trash to be picked up.
Virginia Doty and her son and daughter-in-law Dale and Billie Doty have since September 2005 leased the property where the crags are located. The Brown County Water Improvement District owns the property.
“It’s a pretty historic area and in my opinion is the prettiest part of the lake,” Dale Doty said in an interview last November.
“(But) they have abused it to the point it’s uncontrollable,” he told the Brown County Water Improvement District (BCWID) members during their April meeting. According to the lease, the operators of Kirkland Docks cannot restrict people from going into the area and swimming, nor can they charge for admission to the area. At its meeting, BCWID Bill Bell said that the lease could be changed.
“We don’t want to take away their access to it. We don’t want things in the watershed that are going to run into the lake,” BCWID General Manager John Chisolm said.
Chisolm said that the district will be installing fencing soon to help protect the water intake area, which is a security concern.
Chamberlain said he would rather focus his attention on maintaining the areas where he and others climb, cleaning out underbrush and clearing views of the lake rather than spending so much time on trash.
“The clearing improves the views - there are beautiful views of the lake. It opens the whole area up. It really opens up a recreational area,” he said. “But when it’s cleared out, there’s no hiding whatever you’re doing when someone walks up. They see it all.”
Last November the area drew about 50 volunteers, mostly from Abilene, as part of the national Adopt-A-Crag program. The group was able to clear out trash and underbrush, cut and clear several trails and install retaining walls to help protect several runoff areas. Chamberlain has been doing similar work for the past three-and-a-half years, but says it is difficult for one or two people to make visible headway.