Landowner wants McLennan County to fence off private road to block trespassers’ access to ‘Felon’s Playground’ at Tradinghouse
HALLSBURG, Texas (KWTX) - Kevin Kuretsch can become emotional when he talks about Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir, the 2,000-acre lake in eastern McLennan County.
His father worked at the Tradinghouse Creek power plant and the nearby Lake Creek power plant for 41 years, and Kuretsch has spent countless hours on the water fishing, boating, skiing and jet skiing.
It has long been the 62-year-old real estate investor’s dream to own property on the lake so he can have access to the reservoir for recreation and build a retirement home with a lake view filled with his childhood memories.
Kuretsch got his chance six years ago when he bought a two-acre tract at the end of Redfish Lane, a private road that dead-ends into the lake.
What Kuretsch didn’t know when he bought it was that partiers, drug abusers, and what he says are armed convicted felons, frequently use the private road to gain access to the shoreline, leaving their trash, needles and shell casings behind when they leave.
He said he likely would have been run over by someone in a pickup truck in August but was alerted by his friend that it was headed his way, allowing him to jump out of the way at the last second.
“I felt the wind from the truck as it went by me,” he said.
Kuretsch lives in Robinson but moved a travel trailer to his property, which also came with a red, metal building and a deck. The building has been broken into, riddled with bullet holes and vandalized, and Kuretsch had to remove his trailer because it also was vandalized.
The problems worsen during summer months, when the draw of the lakefront property hits its peak. The issues have gotten so bad, according to Kuretsch, that he has dubbed his property “the felons’ playground.”
Kuretsch, who is nothing if not persistent, has contacted the sheriff’s office multiple times over the years. He says they have responded to his calls but have done little to dissuade the criminal activity.
“I called and reported the guy who tried to run me over and the sheriff’s office came out and said they wanted me to come in and file a complaint,” Kuretsch said. “I have not heard one word back from them since then.”
He also has tried to contact County Judge Scott Felton; County Administrator Dustin Chapman; Sheriff Parnell McNamara; Mike Dixon, an attorney who represents the county; County Commissioner Patricia Miller, whose Precinct 2 includes the reservoir; the other three county commissioners; and other county officials. He said they have been ignoring his calls for some time now.
Kuretsch clearly has worn out his welcome with county leaders. They say he has threatened to report them to state agencies, filed State Bar of Texas grievances against Dixon, cursed and yelled at county employees and generally has made a pest out of himself while trying to find a reasonable solution to his problem.
Miller said she is empathetic to Kuretsch’s concerns and has discussed the legalities of the situation with Dixon. She said she has not returned Kuretsch’s messages recently because she has nothing new to report to him.
Kuretsch said Miller initially told him that the county should abandon the property at the end of the roadway past Kuretsch’s property and close off access to the lake. That changed, however, after she consulted with Dixon.
He said he wants to put up an 8-foot privacy fence with a locked gate, signage, lights and video cameras to keep people from gaining access to the lake from Redfish Lane.
The county has proposed instead to put up a guardrail with signs across the roadway. Commissioners will consider action on that proposal at their meeting Tuesday morning.
Kuretsch said a guardrail only will force people to park on his property and still will allow them to step over the barrier on their way to the lake.
“The county owns the property we are talking about and on the other side is the easement owned by Luminant,” Dixon said. “We bought the park property from Luminant and Luminant retains the right of first refusal should we try to sell any of it. We have offered suggestions, but none of them have been good enough for Mr. Kuretsch at this point. He has threatened us with criminal investigations and other actions. I don’t feel like I can speak to it much more.”
Felton, who owns property on the other side of the lake from Kuretsch’s property, did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.
Dixon said the county is not going to build a security fence for Kuretsch. However, Kuretsch said he would be glad to pay for all the costs to survey the property, put up the high fence and maintain it.
“I do find it interesting that he has owned that property now for about six years and he didn’t even put a fence around his own house,” Dixon said.
Sheriff McNamara agrees that the lakeside area at the end of Redfish Lane “has been a really bad area for a lot of years now.”
“We have gone above and beyond trying to help Mr. Kuretsch,” McNamara said. “We show up every time he or someone else calls us out there and we have tried to help him every way we can. We have been called out there so many times it is unbelievable. But every time this guy calls, we respond. Sometimes people don’t like the outcome, but we do everything we can and will continue to do so.”
Kuretsch said a car was driven into the water from Redfish Lane and stayed submerged for three days until it was discovered by a fisherman. A dive team was called in to make sure no one was in the car.
Kuretsch said he kept an eye on the property for years while boating before he got the chance to buy it. Since then, he has cleared the land between his property and the lake, removed a huge pile of construction debris dumped there by a neighbor, removed 54 tires from the lake where the road ends and regularly mows the right-of-way between the lake and his property.
“I watched this property for many years from the lake in my boat, wondering what the story was,” he said. “There was chest-high grass, vines, brush, a huge mountain of remodeling debris dumped by an individual who lives on this road, and I went to work on it. I wanted it to look nice, as well as my personal place looking nice. I have done everything now for the six years I have owned this property. I have done maintenance down there by myself. I am doing the county a favor by maintaining it. The county essentially has abandoned it.”
He also spent about $3,000 to bring in gravel, grade and make other improvements on Redfish Lane.
“You can’t tell it now with all the traffic that has basically destroyed all the work I did on this road,” he said.
Kuretsch, who won’t go to the property now without a “witness” and a .40 caliber pistol strapped to his hip, said some of the “troublemakers” who use the road to gain access have told him they go there instead of the 180-acre county park just around the bend because they know the Redfish Lane property is not patrolled by county deputies because it is a private road.
“So they can come down here and drink, do their drugs and whatever they want to do and get away with it,” he said.
Mike Glockzin, who has been Hallsburg mayor for 22 years, has lived on property next to Kuretsch’s for 25 years. He acknowledges that there is a fair amount of what he called “rifraff” that use the private road to gain access to the lake. However, he said he personally hasn’t had any problems with them but is aware of the many times that sheriff’s deputies have been called to handle a variety of issues there.
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