Texas Rising September/October 2008

Where Eagles Fly

Public-private partnership drives visitors to Hill Country park.

A partnership between the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and private investors has yielded a Hill Country destination that appeals to outdoor adventurers and indoor enthusiasts alike.

Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park and Lodge, located west of Burnet on the shores of Lake Buchanan, is a thriving joint effort between the LCRA and private investment group Canyon of the Eagles Ltd. It attracts an estimated 40,000 visitors annually, up from 5,000 in 1999, its first year of operation.

Local Government
Tools that Made
the Difference

Canyon of the Eagles

When it comes to bringing private partnerships to public recreation, Jeff Singleton, the LCRA’s senior project manager for public/private initiatives, says attracting quality partners is key to success.

“We create the right product in the types of parks we build. We build a quality park facility that private interests find attractive.” In maintaining those relationships, “have it all in writing in a good, solid contractual agreement clearly stating the responsibilities of each party,” Singleton says.

A Spreading Concept

LCRA officials say they hope these types of parks will help people reconnect to nature without necessarily roughing it. Since Canyon of the Eagles, the LCRA has incorporated the lodge concept in its other Colorado River Trail parks. The LCRA operates 12 developed parks in addition to several recreational areas and river access points. For instance, the McKinney Roughs Nature Park between Austin and Bastrop includes a Hill Country Hyatt adjacent to the park site. Plans are also in the works to develop a lodge at the Matagorda Bay Nature Park.

As part of its development of Colorado River Trail, in 1993 the LCRA purchased 940 acres of ranchland, including a site for the park. Aside from its river access, the Canyon of the Eagles Park area is home to rarities such as bald eagles and golden-cheeked warblers. LCRA selected Canyon of the Eagles Ltd. of San Antonio to fund the $6 million lodge, which occupies 45 acres of the park with 16 cottages and 64 lodge rooms.

The LCRA also recruited Vanishing Texas River Cruises and Lake Buchanan River Adventures to give visitors additional recreational options, says Jeff Singleton, the LCRA’s senior project manager for public/private initiatives. Daily and seasonal cruises attract up to 90 passengers at a time.

Jeff Singleton, Lower Colorado River Authority senior project manager, at Canyon of the Eagles:  “We create the right product in the  types of parks we build.

While the park filled a geographical gap in the trail planning, the Canyon of the Eagles Lodge also carved a niche in the outdoor experience. Tent camping and RV parking are available, and the lodge has air conditioning and hot showers. Presidian, a San Antonio-based hotel management company, operates the facility, which is equipped to host corporate meetings and special events. Despite the amenities, the lodge has one deliberate omission: The guest rooms don’t have televisions.

“It gives you a chance to slow your pace down and put your BlackBerry away,” says David Whatley, park superintendent.

The Canyon of the Eagles Lodge has grown as a popular family vacation destination.

“Instead of playing video games, the kids are outside throwing rocks or tromping down trails,” says Steve Dutton, partnership manager for Canyon of the Eagles Ltd. “People go up there and have a great time. It’s really well-suited for the family.” TR

For more information about Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park and Lodge visit www.canyonoftheeagles.com.

For resources on maximizing your community’s recreational offerings to drive economic development, contact the Comptroller’s Local Government Assistance and Economic Development Division at (800) 531-5441, ex. 3-4679, or visit the Web site at www.TexasAhead.org.