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On Saturday, hundreds of people turned out for a community cleanup along the shores of Lake Grapevine. The trails, picnic tables and playground equipment that were underwater for months since the heavy rains in May and June are just now revealing themselves – and the damage they sustained.

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“We peaked in May….and then Tropical Storm Bill came,” says city of Grapevine Emergency Management Coordinator Liz Dimmick. “We went back up again. We had two crests.”

For the first time since 1981, Lake Grapevine’s emergency spillway was activated in June, sending water and debris pouring into Denton Creek. “We had picnic tables, we had asphalt, we had trash cans. I’m pretty sure we had a boat going over,” Dimmick says. “We were concerned because we were not sure where all of the water was going to go. There have been so many changes on the creek and so much construction.”

The water flowed over FM 2499 — a main artery — and kept the road closed for what seemed like an eternity for the thousands of residents in Flower Mound, Grapevine and Coppell. Water came right up to the entrance of the Camden Riverwalk apartments, closing off emergency access and prompting an emergency driveway through the back so that people could get in and out.

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Jerry Cotter, chief of water resources for the US Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District, says while May and June revealed that a floodplain adjustment will likely be needed in Waco and the Austin area, one is not on the table for the area surrounding Denton Creek. Local government entities, however, had already shored up part of the creek with mini levees, following a heavy rain in 2007.

“And, it did its job. It held up,” says Dimmick. “Unfortunately, there are other parts of the creek that have washed out. One of our larger projects will be to help mitigate that.”

Water got so high in June that debris got caught in the tree canopy. Kathy Nelson, planning manager for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, says initial cleanups were accomplished via kayaks, with parks employees and volunteers removing tires, tennis balls, decking and a water heater from the branches. And yet, it could have been so much worse. Instead of repairing roads, parks and golf courses, homes and businesses could have been washed out. But they weren’t, largely because the US Army Corps of Engineers bought enough farm land to keep development at bay and designed the dam anticipating a scenario worse than what was seen in June. All of this planning was done before the lake was even built in the 1950s.

Lake Grapevine before /after flooding (Photo E. Trube, KRLD)

Lake Grapevine before /after flooding (Photo E. Trube, KRLD)

To this day, the land surrounding the lake is owned by the Corps. A large portion of it is leased by the city of Grapevine, which has created a good amount of park areas, including The Vinyards Campground and Meadowmere Park. Nelson says it’s clear that people have a personal connection to the public land and treat it as their own. “We know that we see trash one day and the next it’s gone,” says Nelson. “Its those folks that appreciate what’s going on. And they don’t need to be told or asked, they just do it.”

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