Charles Allen Warned the City its Trinity River "Wave" Might Kill Canoers. He'll Pay for That.

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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Should have seen this one coming. Hope it's not my own fault.

On Monday I reported here that the city is going to spend some $76,000 to have its screwed-up and unusable fake rapids in the Trinity River digitally modeled by an engineering company that builds sewage treatment plants. That's how they hope to find out what's wrong with the "Dallas Wave," as they call their man-made recreational water feature.

In that piece I very naively suggested the city just persuade Trinity River canoe outfitter Charles Allen to canoe through the existing structure -- a series of dams built to create turbulence for kayakers. If he did it a bunch of times in canoes loaded at different weights, Allen could tell them why the wave is so dangerous and how to fix it.

Not gonna happen. In fact, it's worse than that. The city is doing its best to run Allen out of business.

What I should have seen: Allen is the guy who blew the whistle on the Dallas Wave in the first place. He told me in early May -- and I reported in a column in the Observer -- that the wave feature was brutally dangerous for family canoers. A so-called "safe bypass" for canoes was anything but, Allen explained, and would result in water deaths if the city left it the way it was.

The city took note, it seemed. They opened the water feature to the public with a news conference and fanfare. Then after the cameras went away, they closed it to public use.

Since Monday, when I stupidly suggested the city consult Allen for his expertise, Allen informed me that the city has threatened him with arrest if he brings canoe clients anywhere near the wave feature. See the city's legal threat letter below.

Thumbnail image for charles allen.jpg
Trinity River guide Charles Allen.
Here is the situation: At the same place where they have built the Dallas Wave, the city has created a parking lot and river access ramps for boats. I went down there and looked last week. Approximately a full city block from the parking, construction crews are working on an elevated walking and biking trail over a disused railroad trestle.

In late May, Allen took a group of school teachers into the site for a canoe trip down the river to the Dallas Audubon Center. The wave site provides the best access to the best part of a state-sponsored "paddling trail" through the Great Trinity Forest.

Allen told me yesterday he saw the construction crews working when he took the group in. Even though their work was not near the place where he put the canoes in, he kept his group inside his van until the work crews took a break, so not to interfere with their movements.

He put the teachers into the river below the wave feature, downriver from it, after it, so they would not go through it. Encouraging amateur canoers to go through the wave or the so-called safe bypass is the last thing he would do, he tells me. He's afraid to put clients in above the feature because he thinks they might be tempted to try it in spite of his warnings.

Allen, in other words, is not in the teacher-drowning business. Drowning teachers would be bad for his business. If anything, Allen is much more committed to the non-drowning of teachers than the city is.

So he popped the canoes in the river. The teachers paddled off, undrowned. For that, the Dallas city attorney is now threatening him with arrest.

I asked Dallas Assistant Director of Park and Recreation Willis Winters yesterday to help me understand the city's actions here. If you transferred this construction project to an area within downtown, for example, it would be a very minor job. I can't imagine the city demanding that an entire city block around it be sealed from traffic and evacuated during the work.

Just put up some sawhorse barricades, you know. People can figure it out.

But Winters told me an entire committee of city staff would have to be convened in order to produce answers to my questions. I am waiting for that response. In general, Winters is a man whose responses are reasonable.

The city is also about to close the other major access to the river, at Trammell Crow Park at the Sylvan crossing, for a year or more for bridge construction. They are in the process, in other words, of sealing off the river entirely from public access while they do photo ops for the media about their $4 million-plus investment in the Dallas Wave.

Allen is a very nice, modest, smart kind of a mountain-man outdoors type, without a political bone in his body. Now it looks like he's got the wrath of City Hall to contend with. I hope it isn't my fault. I get paid to take the wrath of City hall. If I got less wrath from them, I might get a cut in pay.

But Allen is collateral damage. I fear that he's the one their arrows could reach. What a shame. I will let you know when I get my answers, probably next week. Sad and outrageous.

City to Charles Allen Letter


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103 comments
Paddlerdave1
Paddlerdave1

What do you expect from such a disfunctional city government such as Dallas? They don't even have a pro football team.

Paddlerdave

Travel
Travel

Sad and outrageous, indeed, but since this is the City of Dallas we're talking about, not at all surprising..............

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TruthBeTold
TruthBeTold

Poor, poor Charles Allen. Charles Allen is the cause of the city having to spend millions more. The "design changes" that helped swell the cost where changes to add the bypass channels to accommodate Charles Allen and his canoe business. When the city proposed putting in the whitewater park, Charles Allen complained that it would hurt his business. The city modified the design and added the bypass channels to placate him. So the city went to additional trouble and expense to try to accommodate him and keep him happy. 

After the channels were completed, Charles Allen didn't like them. Note also that the city also provided concrete ramps above and below the park so his clients could easily portage around the park if they did not wish to paddle through it. But this was not enough for him.

So he ran to the press and started claiming that they were unsafe (which have been shown and documented to not be the case). Now he is claiming it is a waste of taxpayer money. I find it ironic that the man who caused the city to spend millions more on the whitewater park to add bypass channels to accommodate his business is now throwing the city under the bus. 

Maybe this is just karma coming back to the guy who single-handedly added millions to the cost of the project and then stabs those who tried to accommodate him in the back.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Me. Allen---Contact your state rep on this. Have THEM send a formal request to the Attny Gen of TX to see if they can bar you from your right to make  aliving. Also, write the governor, the man who "brings jobs" to texas. Maybe, just maybe, if some light is shown your way by the go'vt, Dallas will wise up and back off....

Timdalbey
Timdalbey

The city is out of line and acting in a ridiculous manner threatening Mr. Allen with arrest for putting canoeists in the public river downstream from the laughing stock of recreational endeavors, the "pit" ("Standing Wave").  Mr. Allen put people in the river downstream of the "pit" (Standing Wave) out of the way of the construction and avoiding all construction.  What is the city's problem except to give him a hard time?  How can putting school teachers in canoes on the river be hazardous to the steel and concrete construction when it is on a trestle/bridge above the river and upstream.  Mr. Bowels doesn't seem to know the difference between the upper and the lower.  As stated in Mr. Bowels letter to Mr. Allen, the boats were canoes and not theirs but rented from Mr. Allen.  The teachers guided by Mr. Allen did not make an intrusion but avoided and circumvented the construction for safety reasons.  How can teachers walking down the right bank walkways south of the construction in any way be construed to threaten hard hat construction workers that have been there working for over a year and put them at risk of death when they are welding up on a bridge and trestle above the ground surface a good distance north of where the teachers entered the river.  And, how can their walking down the walkway and bank damage the improvements being constructed when the construction is made of huge steel rebar, massive concrete and boulder walls?  For one year the city had no signs marking "Keep Out," "Danger Construction Zone," construction limits not defined, etc. even when construction began and there were no signs of impending danger any where until we brought the danger within the "pit" to their attention and they put "Boat Ramp Closed" signs at Sylvan.  The city has been negligent in every aspect of the "pit" ("Standing Wave").  Mr. Bowel quotes state law for trespassing instead of local city law, meanwhile it is the CESWF (Ft. Worth Corps of Engineers) that has jurisdiction and regulates the river not the city.  Mr. Kevin Craig (assigned to the TRCPO) and Mr. Barry Osborne (Permit Regulator), both of the CESWF need to weigh in on this and counsel the city that the river is public water and not the city's.  The city has a right to get a permit for a project, but in this case there are many navigable river violations with the "pit" making the river non-navigable, and hence the city's extra money they have to spend to make it safe within the bypass channel that will accommodate small craft like canoes but not other boats hence the river is non-navigable.  Mr. Allen should be commended for his concern about human life and the dangers lurking in the "pit" and the bypass channel instead of threatened and treated like a criminal by the city.  Mr. Bowel and the city needs to apologize to Mr. Allen because he has all along since this project began cared about human life more than the city.        

Oak Cliff Clavin
Oak Cliff Clavin

Sorry folks, park's closed, moose out front shoulda told ya...

Do they give Darwin Awards for cities?

Whatknot
Whatknot

aaaahh  the mighty Trinity ... the Rodney Dangerfield of rivers ... it gets no respect.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Oh, and I have a question. Who is our Risk Manager, and where is his/her report on the safety measures taken on this construction site?Is there any pther documentation on this issue, prior to this man's involvement?

 Someone call ICE and have them check the documentation of every single construction worker there. Every week. Bring a van, ready to head to the border. Call OSHA, and check for harnesses, goggles, any safety gear.

If they want to play this game, then by God, let's play it.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

I think we need to schedule a field trip or flash mob down there.

TrueTV
TrueTV

Replay is kicking some ass and taking names. Sounds like the City of Dallas is violating many laws and wrongfully taking the mans livelihood away from him. 

City Hall Attorneys - listen to me very carefully. Don't make the same very expensive mistake of coming in like a bull in a china closet because your gonna just end up getting your assed handed to you on this one. 

Your clearly in the wrong, so take a big breath and issue a public apology to the injured party.

Respectfully Submitted,

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Christopher D. Bowers cooperation with JustiaOverviewLICENSE INFORMATIONBar Card Number:02731300Texas License Date:11/03/1989PRACTICE INFORMATIONFirm:City of DallasFirm Size:61 to 100Occupation:Government LawyerPractice Areas:Administrative and Public, Government/Administrative, Litigation: Commercial, Real Estate, OtherServices Provided:Language translation:YesHearing impaired translation:Not SpecifiedADA-accessible client service:YesLanguages Spoken:SpanishLAW SCHOOLSLaw SchoolGraduation DateDegree EarnedCornell University05/1989Doctor of Jurisprudence/Juris Doctor (J.D.)PUBLIC DISCIPLINARY HISTORYState of Texas*SanctionDate of EntrySanction DateStart - EndProbation DateStart - EndNo Public Disciplinary History - Texas*NOTE: Only Texas disciplinary sanctions within the past 10 years are displayed. For sanction information beyond 10 years, information about a specific disciplinary sanction listed above or to request a copy of a disciplinary judgement, please contact the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel at (877) 953-5535. There is a $15.00 fee for each disciplinary judgment copied.Other StatesSanctionStateSanction DateStart - End None Reported By AttorneyStatutory Profile Last Certified On:12/01/2010The Texas Attorney Profile provides basic information about Attorneys licensed to practice in Texas. Attorney profile information is provided as a public service by the State Bar of Texas as outlined in Section 81.115 of the Texas Government Code. The information contained herein is provided "as is" with no warranty of any kind, express or implied. Neither the State Bar of Texas, nor its Board of Directors, nor any employee thereof may be held responsible for the accuracy of the data. Much of the information has been provided by the attorney and is required to be reviewed and updated by the attorney annually. The information noted with an asterisk (*) is provided by the State Bar of Texas. Texas grievance/disciplinary information will not appear on the profile until a final determination is reached. Access to this site is authorized for public use only. Any unauthorized use of this system is subject to both civil and criminal penalties. This does not constitute a certified lawyer referral service.  WEBSITEwww.dallascityattorney.comSOCIAL NETWORK PROFILESFacebook (#!/chris...)LinkedInCOURTS OF ADMITTANCEFederalUS Supreme CourtFifth Circuit Court of AppealsTexas Northern District CourtOther CourtsNone Reported By AttorneyOTHER STATES LICENSEDNone Reported By Attorney

Shelton_greg
Shelton_greg

the real story here is not why the city won't ask some guy that canoes a lot about how to fix it.  the real story here is why is no one talking to the people who designed it.

Heavy Metal Church Lady
Heavy Metal Church Lady

Portage Law and the historical navigability of the Trinity for commerce and travel are on Allen's side. Theoretically, he could canoe up to the Standing Wave and get out and scout on land once he encounters an obstacle. He could then make a determination to portage--even if on private land. As long as he didn't doing any sightseeing or lolly-gagging, he's got the right of way.

Economy Light & Power Co. v. United States, 256 U.S. 113, 122, 41 S.Ct. 409, 412 (1921)

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Has Anyone here ever been jammed up by someone with a bunch of  attorneys and an unlimited budget ? Mr Allen needs to back away from the river bank and let someone with deeper pockets take on the challenge..

Ben
Ben

What a crock of crap from the city. That area is part of Moore Park. Softball fields and such back up to the Dallas Wave Trestle Trail area. Unless things have changed of late, the No Trespassing signs are related to the DART trestle, not the Dallas park project. The No Trespassing sign has been there since 1997. The only other No Trespassing sign is one that faces east from the levee road warning motorized vehicles from entering the levee road system. I have never seen any trespassing signs on the north or south approaches. Unless that changed very recently.

This is how nice and tranquil it was prior to the Dallas Wave being built, from June of last year:

http://youtu.be/4uD2zWtPkJo

Using a shallow draft gar boat like that is now impossible on the Trinity River.

Also, if you are going to make someone's life difficult with a strongly worded memo, how about floating one to the guys who have keys to the gates, who hunt and fish at the Dallas Wave on the weekends? Those guys are poachers. Armed poachers, 2500 feet from Dallas Police Headquarters.

http://img19.imageshack.us/img...

I'm guessing they are the construction workers, since they have access through the locked gates.

http://img135.imageshack.us/im...

Food for thought.

I also question the safety hazards outlined in the memo...when the weekend security guard can be seen either asleep or sitting under all that "dangerous" scaffolding wearing sandals, no hard hat, listening to an ipod, sitting on a cardboard box, picking the lint out between his toes

http://img143.imageshack.us/im...

Oh OSHA, where art thou?

JimS
JimS

I think "replay" is on to some stuff here.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Marilla is inhabited by a bunch of fucking morons.

replay
replay

Ahem..........this may help to clear up the question of who has jurisdiction over the river.......guess what? (It ain't the City of Dallas). According to this website (see link below), the river and all of the land along the banks of the river on both sides (up to the normal high water mark) are "held in trust for use by the public" by the State (in this case, Texas). I'm guessing that the boat launching areas are included as being held in trust for public use.

http://www.nationalrivers.org/...

Canoe1980
Canoe1980

TruthBeTold just sounds like yet another misinformed individual selfishly looking at a complex issue. I have stood at the rivers edge within the Standing Wave Park. I have taken photos of logs and other obstruction making a small bypass even more difficult to safely navigate. Impossible? No but that is NOT the point. The Standing Wave was put in at a very large cost to very little benefit and some that stand to benefit will even get a new taxpayer subsidized place to run their business.  The water quality is rated as unsafe for recreation contact by the TCEQ, that fact hasn't changed the whole time the project has been under construction.

Where do the rest of us sign up for tax payer subsidized office space? especially where non existed before within the city and only available locally an hour away?  Where the conditions are hazardous to our clients and the city agrees to pick up the health care cost when my place of business gets them sick or kills them?

The bigger picture is how to clean up the river and make it a healthy place for all. That cost will far exceed the 4.2 million we have already sunk into the Trinity River bottom.

Gorgon
Gorgon

TruthBeTold should have the moniker LiesBeTold.  Charles is not the cause the city has to spend millions more to fix the "pit."  Park Department and TRCPO people are such as city employees Willis Winters and John Reynolds, and others that made the decision it needed fixing.  Charles doesn't work for the city and has had little influence in past endeavors.  The bad design and builders are the cause the city has to spend more money.  Bypass routes were part of the design and did not cost additional millions.  Let's see those cost figures.    

Charles Allen has been in on and an advocate of a white water feature since 1998 when the whole DF project began and it was going to be off channel.  A white water feature would actually help his business because it would be another type of water recreation amenity he could provide.

The city did not add the bypass channels to accommodate him nor do they care if he is happy even though most city officials and media types have free loaded a canoe trip down the Trinity with Charles.  The city did go to the trouble and the expense to accommodate a few kayakers so they could play "rubber duck" in the wave.  

The bypass channels are narrow and dangerous.  I didn't see anything by the TruthBeTold writer that he/she went through the bypass channels or through the "wave" part of the "pit."  The city had to make the ramps to portage around the "pit" hazard.  Now the city threatens to put him in jail for trespassing if he uses the ramps and portages around the "pit."  The "pit" impedes navigation of the river by any craft other than a sawed off rubber duck type of kayak.  There is no ramp ramp on the down stream end.  

The press came to him and others.  Charles Allen isn't alone in criticizing this calamity.  It is a waste of taxpayer money for a small limited special interest group.  I can't believe all the kayakers that I see go down there which amounts to NO ONE.  Over four million dollars and more to be spent and NO ONE uses the "pit."  If you do the city will arrest you for trespassing. 

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Please insert paragraph breaks. My head hurts....

VijayB
VijayB

There are several concrete (pun intended) steps to take:  1) Charles Allen needs to contact his council member and Mike Rawlings to tell them the City of Dallas is trying to put him out of business and why; 2) Contact the Corps of Engineers and determine if the City has the right to "close" a portion of a navigable river, whether the COE granted the City a permit for the "water feature", and if the City's letter to Allen is legal or enforceable; 3) As others have suggested, contact the relevant State folks in Austin and inform them; and 4) whoever has the time, start signing up for the "open mic" time at City Hall meetings, assuming that time still exists, and start raising Cain.  Point out the City's complete incompetence in proceeding with the project, and that it's reaction to someone alerting them of possible risks/threats is to try to put that person out of business.   There are probably lots of other similar things that we can do, that only take time, and no attorney's fees.  I would stress the putting a person out of business aspect, a person who has been involved with the Trinity River long before the suits and developers suddenly became enamored of it as an asset they could exploit for their personal profit.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Sorry about the mess, I was trying to post Bower's info from texasbar.com and the cut and paste picked up a lot of extraneous info that didn't show up until it was posted, and I couldn't get back in to edit it down.  I had thought, reading the letter, that it sounded like the chest thumping you hear from a baby lawyer, but he's not; he's a 1989 Cornell Law graduate.  

Marc W. McCord
Marc W. McCord

The people who designed it are NOT the same people who built it. The designers knew what they were doing. The construction contrator did not have a clue!

replay
replay

I agree. It's also interesting that the Supreme Court has held that boating excursions (I'm sure canoe tours would qualify) are "commerce". So, by denying Allen access to and use of the river, the City is affecting his "commerce".

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

He has all the rights in the world until they find him with fertilizer ,diesel  detonator cord guns ammo kiddie Porn and drugs in his canoe after he is zapped with a stun gun and drowns while resisting arrest .

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

No, someone with bigger pockets needs to come HELP him---now.

RudderMan
RudderMan

Ok - now I am starting to get mad!

I think we should all start calling the Attorney General's Office of the State of Texas and complain that the City of Dallas has closed  the Trinity River - which is a violation against the citizens of the State of Texas.  I think there are a few folks down in Austin who know how to deal with the City of Dallas' attorneys - Anyone remember  how Austin had to step in re Samuel Farm?

Canoe1980
Canoe1980

That should have said, "where none existed before".

Whodunnit
Whodunnit

I like it. You're right. Give the new mayor a chance to prove himself. I also like the idea of contacting the Corps of Engineers, since it looks like the City is already in hot water with those guys over maintenance of the levees.

VijayB
VijayB

I know, bad form replying to one's own post, but I forgot to add, that in all communication with the City of Dallas - remember to add that a City with delusions of being "world-class" would not act in this manner.  (And I meant that to sting, quoting Bertie Wooster & PG Wodehouse)

scottindallas
scottindallas

My father, a grad of SMU Law has had many Ivy League lawyers work under him.  He is wholly unimpressed.  He and many of his collegues are as impressed with Texas Tech's graduates.  They have more pragmatic understanding of what lawyers do. 

Whodunnit
Whodunnit

.....and I'm willing to bet that he did not build it the way it was designed........and I'm also willing to bet that the City knew it was not being built the way it was designed..........

replay
replay

Good idea! I don't think there is any love lost between the City and the folks you speak of in Austin. Furthermore, I'm wondering whether the City obtained all of the proper permits and approvals from Federal and State agencies before they built the "standing wave" structure? I would almost bet they did not (they have a bad habit of just assuming they own and control everything within the City limits, and don't understand the concept of asking for permission from a higher authority). From the way Jim S. has described the standing wave feature in his articles, it sounds like they have negatively affected the navigability of the river by constructing an unsafe impediment in the river, therefore negatively impacting the public's ability to use the river for recreational purposes (this is against the law). Maybe the state or the Feds will make them rip out the whole thing, and restore the area to its original condition.

Billie Ryan
Billie Ryan

My firm is EXTREMELY unimpressed with SMU Law grads, and although we like them better, we're not very impressed with TT Law grads either. SMU grads seem to know nothing of the real world.

replay
replay

I agree wholeheartedly. If the City did not apply for a permit ("WE don't need no stinkin' permit"), that would explain the lack of an EIS. It makes me wonder whether the standing wave structure has affected migratory patterns or spawning. Aquatic life may no longer be able to get up the river because of the currents that have been created.

Marc W. McCord
Marc W. McCord

Navigability is but one issue at stake. The very act of building the standing wave park disrupted the natural flow of the river adversely affecting plants, fish and animals whose habitat is the river. That is a violation of federal law. An Environmental Impact Study (EIS) was required before such a project was built. So far, I have found no EIS that was ever conducted to determine what damage building that structure might have on natural species.

Replay
Replay

Agree wholeheartedly. However, I believe we'll see some changes coming soon, especially in the investigative environment that exists. I'm guessing that County and City leaders are experiencing culture shock as they come to terms with the concept that they can no longer act with impunity. They are no longer the masters of the universe.

DoubleOJoe
DoubleOJoe

But since when did little things like laws stop the city government from doing whatever they wanted to?

replay
replay

The law appears to be heavily, very heavily, in Charles Allen's favor (from what I have read). Numerous US Supreme Court Cases have been decided that what the City is doing is against the law. There are activist groups who would probably get involved if asked, but perhaps some discussions with Mr. Bowers in the City Attorney offices to "educate" him might be productive. If not, then it's time to go to Austin, and raise the issues with the State Attorney General since the State is responsible for holding the river in trust for the public (the state has a legal obligation to intercede if public use of the river is being threatened), perhaps also getting some Federal Agencies (EPA, Fish and Wildlife, ACE, etc.) involved before pursuing a legal confrontation head-on-head.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Only Austin could sue, unless some white knight with bottomless pockets of cash wants to tilt at windmills.

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