BELTON — Chalk Ridge Falls, with its crystal-clear creeks, scenic waterfall and rocky cliffs, is a popular Bell County spot for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The Stillhouse Hollow Lake park is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is updating its comprehensive land and recreational management master plan for the area. The plan, last updated in the 1970s, will guide the agency for the next 25 years, officials said.
“The master plan study area includes Stillhouse Hollow Lake proper and all adjacent recreational and natural resources properties under USACE administration,” agency spokesman Clay Church said. “Revision of the master plan does not address in detail the technical operational aspects of the reservoir related to the water supply or flood risk management missions of the project. Stillhouse Hollow Lake is a multi-purpose reservoir constructed and managed for flood risk management, water supply, fish and wildlife, and recreation.”
Agency officials will post a virtual presentation of the plan for the public to see and comment on during a 30-day period from Feb. 24 to March 26. The presentation, which goes online Feb. 24, describes the planning process and changes, revised land classification maps, the 1970 master plan, and the 2021 draft master plan revision, as well as comment forms and instructions for making comments, Church said.
The presentation will be available at https://www.swf.usace.army.mil/About/Lakes-and-Recreation-Information/Master-Plan-Updates/Stillhouse-Hollow-Lake/.
Stillhouse Hollow Lake — initially called Lampasas Lake for its location on the Lampasas River — was built by the Army Corps of Engineers from 1962 to 1968. Congress designated the dam as Stillhouse Hollow Dam in September 1959, according to U.S. government statutes.
The lake at its conservation pool elevation of 622 feet above sea level covers 6,430 acres with 15,271 acres of public land above the pool. The federal boundary line is 67.5 miles long, meaning the master plan will affect local property owners.
“The current master plan for Stillhouse Hollow Lake was last updated in 1975. The plan and the land classifications are in need of revision to address changes in regional land use, population, outdoor recreation trends and USACE management policy,” Church said. “Key topics to be addressed in the revised master plan include revised land classifications, new natural and recreational resource management objectives, recreation facility needs and special topics such as invasive species management and threatened and endangered species habitat.”
Some lake changes are already underway.
Bell County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 is completing a new $60 million water treatment plant that will serve South Killeen, Harker Heights, Copperas Cove and Nolanville. The plant’s completion is expected this year, an official told FME News Service.
“Over the last 12 months, what was a site littered with structures of concrete and steel and pipe morphed into a functioning water treatment plant,” Ricky Garrett, general manager of the water district, said last month. “Much like a new house being built, the outside of a water plant appears complete and ready long before it’s actually ready.”
Garrett said the water system submitted a comprehensive report to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that includes information about the stability of the water, a metric that assures the water is non-corrosive. The agency’s approval is needed before the plant can provide treated water to the public.
The addition of the Stillhouse plant will enable the district to provide a maximum of 91 million gallons per day of treated water. The district is treating a maximum of 74 million gallons per day at its water plant on Lake Belton, the county’s other Corps-managed lake.
Last March, the Corps of Engineers held an open house meeting at the Harris Community Center in Belton to get public responses to the updated plan.
Residents suggested improvements to make the lake more accessible such as reopening areas of parks and rest areas that have been closed to the public over the years due to lack of maintenance.
“I plan on writing them a letter and request that we get mountain biking access to Bluff Park on the south side of the dam,” Temple resident Keller Matthews said at the meeting. “That is a great area for hiking and biking because it has some very interesting terrain and there are already some existing parking areas that will make it very attractive to the public.”
Lake manager Ronnie Bruggman, who oversees Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes, said last year he expected to present the plan again after updates.
“There has been a change (in the Corps) and we are getting more into doing master plans that we should have been doing years ago,” Bruggman told the Telegram. “I think it is very important (to have a master plan), because not only do you get feedback from the public, but it helps management. It is a great guide for the future.”
Bruggman said the lake’s master plan will be similar to how a city will zone land, designating what types of developments, parks and utilities can be placed in certain areas.
“Public participation,” Church said, “is critical to the successful revision of the master plan.”