by Sheila Gardner

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November 16, 2012
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Watch your step! Taking a walk at Topaz Lake

When Pam Graham takes a walk around her Topaz Lake neighborhood, she makes sure she's wearing her "all-terrain" shoes, has plenty of daylight, and keeps her eyes on the ground.

The translucent beauty of the lake and the mountains goes largely unnoticed as Graham navigates the rocky and uneven roads that fan out from her home on Mark Twain Avenue.

She is careful not to stumble or twist an ankle.

Graham, president of the Topaz Lake Homeowners Association, believes the roads present a safety hazard for the 300 residents in the community. Recently she brought her concerns to Douglas County commissioners.

"This is a retirement community," she said. "The people who live in this community year-round are pretty tight-knit. People come here for the serenity and beauty of a small community. We get a lot of transplants from bigger cities attracted by the beauty of the lake and the availability of outdoor recreation."

Graham estimated that 70 percent of the residents live in Topaz Lake all year. While most are senior citizens, there are some families with school-age children which generates bus traffic.

In her report to commissioners, Graham cited safety concerns.

"We believe that the poor road conditions at Topaz Lake are a safety issue related to possible vehicle accidents, pedestrian injury, school bus travel, and, of most importance, emergency vehicle access," Graham said.

She also cited the lack of adequate drainage which caused road damage and had the potential for injury to residents and structural damage.

Graham said she watched as what she described as a "monsoon" in spring 2011 cascaded water into her neighbor's garage and basement.

Graham said Topaz Lake residents aren't looking for a handout.

"We believe all residences should be required to purchase culverts to be installed by Douglas County and additional culverts provided in areas of greatest threat of erosion," she said.

Graham knows that money for road repairs and maintenance is very tight.

Public Works Director Carl Ruschmeyer said he appreciates the homeowners' concerns and their acknowledgment of the county budget for roads.

"Their situation is not any different than throughout the county. The bottom line is we have limited funding and resources," Ruschmeyer said. "We're putting as much effort as we can in that area to maintain it as best we can."

He said staff would be following up with the homeowners.

"The key problem is drainage whether it stems from the original designs or is found in situations where homeowners made changes. In those cases, the property was actually altered and blocks the drainage, and that compounds the problems."

Graham said she doesn't want anyone to get the idea that Topaz Lake isn't grateful for what the county has done, or that residents aren't pulling their weight as a Douglas County citizens.

The association, which collects $20 a year membership dues from each homeowner, is working on a voluntary neighborhood survey to provide information for emergency services.

There is a local Neighborhood Watch, and 15 residents recently completed Community Emergency Response Team training to respond to disasters.

"Neighbors serve as emergency responders and firefighters, and participate actively in fundraising efforts for the local volunteer fire department, as well as many other community efforts," she said.

Topaz Lake residents don't expect or necessarily want paved roads or street lights, but some of the street signs are unreadable, and need new lettering to provide visibility for residents, visitors and emergency vehicle access.

"We all know there's not the money. But we're willing to work collaboratively with board members (commissioners) and county employees on a reasonable, effective and continued progress to achieving these requests. Even if they do one street, that would make it better," she said.

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The Record Courier Updated Nov 19, 2012 06:32PM Published Nov 16, 2012 07:34PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.