Reimers Ranch in southwestern Travis County is about to go the way of the Armadillo (World Headquarters). For as long as anyone can remember, Milton Reimers has had a fishing camp on his cattle ranch on the Pedernales River. For much of that time the ranch has been a not-so-well-kept secret to local fishermen, swimmers, rock climbers, and mountain bikers. The property will be sold on Nov. 15 after being in the same family for 125 years. What will become of the popular recreation area depends on Travis County voters and the property's new owners.
The gate to Reimers Ranch comes up quick around a bend in Hamilton Pool Road about 17 miles off TX 71. The dirt ranch road drops two dusty miles to the gate at the Reimers' old homestead. Five bucks a head gets you all the recreation you can stand before sundown.
The Pedernales makes a wide turn along the western boundaries of the ranch. Fishermen were the first to see the recreational value of the deep pools along the boulder-strewn river bank. They were followed by family and friends looking to cool off in the shallow waters around the big sandbar.
In the Eighties a small group of rock climbers discovered the limestone cliffs above the river. David Cardosa, an Austin investment officer and trail steward at the ranch, says the private park offers some of the best rock climbing in the Austin area.
A few years ago, Cardosa, Mark Henneke, and the Austin Ridge Riders Mountain Bike Club approached Reimers about adding a stacked system of seven bike trails covering 60 miles if you rode each one separately. The trails are rated similarly to the system for ski runs, ranging from a circle for the novice trail to the triple-diamond route for the experts.
"We tried to get as much trail as we could in a limited amount of space," Cardosa says. The trails snake back and forth across the pasture working their way to the top of a rocky hill where the trails split with the more confident riders screaming down one side and the others working their way back to the parking lot through a series of hairpin turns around cactus and between trees. Either way you go it's a heck of a ride.
Unfortunately, the fate of the mountain bike trails is in limbo.
The $7 million in bond money approved in 2001 is only enough to purchase 200 acres along the river that includes the rock climbing and the most difficult of the bike trails. In November, the county will ask voters to approve another $6.5 million of bond money for an additional 300 acres which would include most, if not all, of the bike trails plus area for other facilities. "The bikers and rockers have done a fabulous job of stewardship," Bergh says, "it would be tragic to lose what is out there."
On Nov. 15 the ranch will change hands in a deal negotiated by Michael Luigs, who has worked with several conservation groups to save open space in Texas. His company, Land/Water/Sky, will sell 500 acres to the county and retain title to the other 600 acres. "The county is welcome to buy as much as they want," Luigs says. "I can't rule out the development of at least some of the property. We're trying to do the best we can with a limited amount of (public) funding."
"The Reimers family have been very heroic," Luigs says. Issues with inheritance laws are forcing the family to sell the ranch. Family members will retain about 500 acres of the property. The Reimers family declined to talk about the sale. The movie The Alamo was filmed on Milton's cousin's ranch and the buildings are visible in the distance from the bike trails.
For the time being, Reimers Ranch, at 23610 Hamilton Pool Rd., will continue to be open to the public Thursday through Sunday for fishing, swimming, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Until Nov. 15, call 512/264-1923 for trail conditions. After that, neither the county nor Luigs anticipates that the park will close while new roads and restrooms are added. After Nov. 15, go to www.co.travis.tx.us/tnr/parks for more information.
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