AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Travis County Sheriff’s Office is urging people to continue practicing safe social distancing when they go out.
That includes social distancing on Lake Travis.
Over the weekend, KXAN received several reports of dozens of people gathering on the lake in close proximity. Viewers sent in photos and videos of boats parked up against each other in Devil’s Cove.
The Travis County Sheriff’s Office says local stay at home orders only make the lake more of an attraction.
“Clearly, it’s beautiful weather,” said Major Craig Smith. “It’s the beginning of the summer time, and this is what this is what we do here in Central Texas. We go to the lake, and I know that people are tired of being cooped up in the house.”
But Smith says people should still be sticking to groups of family members, who live in the same household, while on the lake. He says the orders don’t make it easy to enforce social distancing on land or water.
“We’re treating Lake Travis just like we do people that are driving on the road,” Smith said. “And we don’t make traffic stops just to ask people if they’re performing an essential function, or if they’re wearing their masks or if they have their masks with them. That’s not something that we’re doing, but if we do come across those people for some type of a public safety reason, then we will also utilize that opportunity to educate them. So when you relate that over to Lake Travis, the same rules apply. We’re not randomly stopping boats to say, ‘Hey, are these people on your boat your immediate family members, or are you social distancing on the boat?’
However, Smith says if boaters are stopped for doing something else wrong, deputies will ask them to follow the orders and could write a citation if they don’t comply. He also says in extreme cases, deputies may stop boats with big groups of people clearly putting their health at risk.
The problem with spots like Devil’s Cove is that many of the coves people gather in are out of TCSO’s jurisdiction. The Lower Colorado River Authortiy and Texas Parks and Wildlife patrol areas like Devil’s Cove, however they enforce state regulations. The LCRA says it doesn’t have authority to enforce local orders like the county’s Stay Home- Work Safe order.
The county is monitoring areas around the water. Travis County officials closed Pace Bend Park the past two weekends, because it got too busy.
County Judge Sarah Eckhardt says the county will continue to monitor parks and shut them down when they get too full for proper social distancing.