After the NLand Surf Park in Austin, Texas, failed to open on schedule this spring, the park faces another setback to its debut. This time, the setback is a legal one.
Reports surfaced a few days ago that Travis County, which represents the city of Austin, authorized a lawsuit against the park because it currently does not meet the health and safety requirements that apply to public pools under state law. News from the County Commissioners’ office reached NLand staff the same day as 150 new employees arrived for their orientation.
“This action comes as a surprise to NLand,” wrote NLand personnel on the park’s Facebook page. “Since breaking ground in April 2015, we have worked closely with city, county and state officials, and have demonstrated a commitment to being responsible stewards in each aspect of the park's operation. NLand will not open until we can assure our guests the park will meet the highest standards for quality and safety. We are disappointed the county commissioners would take such drastic measures, without explanation. 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.”
The Wavegarden-juiced park pushed back its opening a few months ago after heavy rainfall in Texas stalled construction. NLand announced in June that the park would open in late spring or early summer. Travis County, however, raised the question of whether or not the lagoon, which would be filled with 11-million gallons of rainwater runoff, should follow the same treatment regulations as those for public swimming pools in Texas--monitoring chlorine levels, issuing of special permits (NLand ‘s developer has apparently not applied for the necessary permits under state law), and mandated fees for routine inspections.
The sticking point comes from the rainwater runoff. Does the pool’s natural water supply excuse it from the treatment of any other swimming pool that keeps your favorite summertime haunt from becoming a concrete petri dish for bacteria? Austin Judge Sarah Eckhardt says no.
"The NLAND Surf Park is being built without conforming to the requirements of Travis County Code, the Texas Health and Safety Code, or the Texas Administrative Code,” Eckhardt told KLBJ Radio.
Below is from NLand’s media statement, dated July 15th :
We do not want to be in court, but the County has forced our hand. It is treating us differently than other, comparable facilities, and applying regulations in an irrational and unfair way. To defend ourselves against the County's aggressive action, we filed a lawsuit in Federal Court. The County has violated our constitutional right to equal protection of the law.
NLand has worked with the world's best engineers to ensure safety in all aspects of our park's operation. Yet the county has refused to gain understanding of our studies by engaging in dialogue with us. If they’re concerned about amoebas, we invite them to look at the studies or talk to us about our water treatment systems.
According to Austin news outlet KXAN, a lawsuit has not yet been filed. Just how far the authorization will delay the park’s opening is unknown.
But fear not, hopeful Texan surfers. Corpus Christi is only a few hours away.