For a few weeks each spring there is a traffic jam of the worst kind leading into Chandler from Tyler.
Only the annual fair visit draws a bigger crowd up and down Texas 31.
Except for Ferris wheels and show cattle, the big attraction in Chandler is the white bass running up the Neches River.
Starting normally in mid-February and lasting sometimes until May, the white bass run creates one of the best bank fishing opportunities going. When the conditions are right, and that means the river is flowing with warmer water as winter starts losing its grip, the cars begin to line the road, and the fishermen take to the woods to take advantage of the easy-to-catch fishery.
It is a tradition that goes back to the 1980s when the white bass mysteriously showed up in Lake Palestine and started making spawning runs.
In the early years fishermen stayed in the confines of Chandler’s River Park, but as the crowd grew so did the places they went to fish.
Local landowner Randy Parker has for years been nice enough to let the fishermen ease up his property north of 31. But come next spring that informal permission will become formal after Chandler signed a long-term lease with Parker, setting into motion a whole bunch of changes for the better. The lease insures access to about 15 acres of riverfront for the next 20 years. There will also be development of a parking lot on the north side of the highway, and the fence will be set back to make it easier for fishermen to get up the river. It could also eventually end up with improvements to the city’s River Park and possibly a walkway under the road in the future.
The project is a cooperative effort between the city, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Department of Transportation, Henderson County and East Texas Woods and Waters Foundation that saved the day by underwriting the lease when it appeared the whole project might fall apart.
When asked, ETWWF put up $10,000 to cover the lease. The organization feels it is money well spent.
“With all of the people that use that and can (fish there) it was a no-brainer for us,” said ETWWF spokesman Marshall Treadwell.
Making certain that access remains open to the public has been a concern of local TPWD officials, who sought out Woods and Waters’ help when the project stalled.
To make the project work, TxDOT will provide some old road material to build access from the highway and the parking lot. Henderson County will do the construction. TPWD’s grant, money available from the federal Farm Bill, will be used to provide a culvert for the project and moving the fence. The city will hold the lease.
Taylor said the project at the gateway to Chandler from the east is a good project for the city because the fishery is an economic tool and it is a way to introduce people to what the city has to offer.
Taylor said Parker was receptive to the idea because he sees its value to Chandler, and what a viable park might do to his property value if he ever decides to develop it in the future. Taylor also said the lease makes the situation better for both the landowner and fisherman.
“It will make it more formal than informal, and formal is always better,” Taylor said.
Taylor said Chandler has discussed improvements at its existing River Park.
“The city has long-terms plans for the park on the south side of the road,” Taylor said. “There are no restrooms and we would like to improve the park and the ramp. TPWD said they would work with us on some grant money for that.”
There is also the possibility that a walkway could be developed under the bridges that would prevent fishermen from having to cross the highway.
Construction on the north side projects is expected to start in August and should only take a month or two to complete, making them open easily in time for the spring run.
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