Private land or park: Falls County takes debate to court - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

FALLS COUNTY

Private land or park: Falls County takes debate to court

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FALLS COUNTY - A dispute over access to land leads to the courtroom after landowners say their land is private, but residents say it's been used as a park for a century.

The debate is over land on the west side of the Brazos river, off FM 712 by Falls on the Brazos Park, near Marlin in Falls County. Landowners says the land is theirs and gated off a county road that leads to it. County officials say the owners are also filing trespassing charges against residents who go on the land. However, the public says it's a public park that's been used for nearly a century. 

After hundreds of signatures in petitions, the county has been trying to open up access to the land. Because of that public outcry, in a 4-1 vote, the commissioners voted to file a lawsuit against the owners.

County Judge Steven Sharp would not comment before the lawsuit has been filed. However, Beckie Seiley, manager of the Falls on the Brazos Park, which is across the river, says the land has been used as a public park for about a century.

"My grandmother walked across that river in 1914, there was public access then," Seiley said. 

Seiley says many people like to use that land for a popular fishing and camping spot in a sand dune. Residents say that spot has the best fishing on the river. 

"Just like my dad used to camp there in 60's. They would camp on the sandbar and they would fish all night," Seiley said. 

However, residents say the owners of the land file trespassing charges on people who walk across the river to the land or boat to it. Seiley says that's been frustrating residents because there's a lot of history there. A historical plaque marks the Falls on the Brazos Park saying the park consists of land on both sides of the river. It's an area she says that was used in the past as the only way to get across the river in the area for wagons in the mid 1800's.

Seiley says the history doesn't stop there. 

"It's very personal, we hear hundreds of stories everyday, I mean people coming in just talking about when I was a kid, the picnic, the camping," Seiley said. 

Seiley has a petition posted inside her cafe in the park, that asks people to sign it if they want access back. She says hundreds of people have signed it and even some city and county officials have started similar petitions. 

The lawsuit has not been filed as of Wednesday because the county's lawyer is working on the lawsuit. Judge Sharp says they voted to file the lawsuit after the family who owns the land stopped negotiating. Now residents, who are trying to revitalize the Falls on the Brazos Park, are hoping it gets resolved soon. 

"I hope it happens," Seiley said. 

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