The road in front of Mount Carmel will open back up by Aug. 23, McLennan County Commissioner Lester Gibson said Thursday.
But if you want to see the site of a shootout between the Branch Davidians and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, you may have to catch a glimpse while going 40 mph.
Double EE Ranch Road and part of Elk Road were closed in early July.
When the roads open, they will be refurbished and sport signs warning travelers not to park or stand on them. A public hearing will be held at the McLennan County Courthouse on Aug. 23 on a motion to post a 40 mph speed limit on Double EE Ranch Road.
Gibson said the changes are not meant to discourage people seeking to view the site of the 51-day standoff between the government and the Branch Davidians. Double EE Ranch Road is a low-density road, only 22 feet wide. Barrow ditches on either side handle drainage. Its narrowness makes it unsafe for people to park or stand on the road, Gibson said.
“Our whole concern is safety,” he said. “I understand that Mount Carmel is an attraction, and people want to go out there. But we’re responsible for the safety of the people who live out there and the people who travel through. You know, the ones who have been inconvenienced during all of this are the ones who live out there. If by regulation we can prevent hazards, that’s the logical thing to do.”
Reaction to the new regulations has been mixed.
“It’s according to where you live,” Gibson said. “If you live in the area, it’s a good order. If you live farther away, you may have mixed emotions. But in the opinion of the commissioners court, a dangerous situation had been created and had to be dealt with.”
Tanks patrolling near the Branch Davidian compound, which was destroyed in an April 19 fire, tore up the roads, Gibson said.
“We replaced what was there prior to Feb. 28,” Gibson said. “We repaved the parts of the roads that were paved and so on. But the problem is that no one used to travel on those roads except the people who lived out there. Now, Mount Carmel is a tourist attraction. So I don’t know how well the roads will hold up.”
Fixing the roads is estimated to cost at least $80,000.
The McLennan County Sheriff’s Department will be responsible for enforcing the regulations against standing or parking on Double EE.
“We won’t change the way we patrol out there,” said Lt. Truman Simons. “We have someone working the district out there. But we’re not going to camp out at Mount Carmel. I’m sure there will be some problems when the roads are opened back up. But we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”