By Charlie Lunan
NLand Surf Park expressed surprise Tuesday, July 12 when local officials who had cheered its plans to open the nation’s first inland surf park near Austin, TX a year ago voted to sue the company.
Following an executive session July 6, the Travis County Commission voted unanimously to direct the County Attorney’s Office to file a civil suit against Austin Park LLC, pursuant to Texas Health and Safety Code Chapter 341. The statute allows the executive director of the Texas Health and Human Service Commission to regulate places that pose public health risks.
NLand pledged Tuesday not to “open until we can assure our guests the park will meet the highest standards for quality and safety,” according to an open letter.
“We are disappointed the county commissioners would take such drastic measures, without explanation,” read the letter. “We look forward to creating a win-win solution for Travis County, NLand and most importantly the millions of surfers and surfers-to-be worldwide.”
While the letter was not signed, NLand was founded by and is headed by its CEO, Doug Coors, a descendant of Colorado brewing legend Adolph Coors. The project, which has involved creating an artificial wave pool equal in size to nine football fields, is expected to be a showcase for the Wavegarden, a Spanish company that designed it.
In a June 4, 2015 press release announcing the park, Travis County Commissioner Margaret Gómez said the parks would mark a great addition to Central Texas. On July 6, however, the commission voted unanimously to sue Austin Park LLC, which is doing business as NLand Surf Park.
The vote comes just two weeks after the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) closed its man-made whitewater paddling course under pressure from county commissioners and health officials and the Centers for Disease Control after its water tested positive for Naegleria Fowleri. The amoeba is suspected to have led to the death of 18-year-old Lauren Seitz, who succumbed to meningitis June 19 after visiting the USNWC June 8.
The USNWC’s whitewater course remained closed for the 18th day Tuesday as the park worked with health officials to determine additional treatment options.
“Our goal is to reduce the algae that can grow in the system without using chemicals that can have negative effects for the environment as well as the guest,” reads a July 4 update at usnwc.org. “The algae is generally not unsafe, but it does create an environment that allows the organisms to grow and avoid the disinfection systems currently in place. There are options we are exploring with our water quality exerts and expect to be very effective in addressing the algae as well as increasing our disinfection capabilities.”
It is unclear whether or by how much the Travis County lawsuit would delay the opening of NLand, which has missed construction deadlines due to rain delays. The company says it still plans to open this year.
Photo courtesy NLand Surf Park