Removal of Cape's Dam could impact veteran's therapy program

The San Marcos City Council voted to get rid of Cape’s Dam last week, but some people say that could drop water levels making the area impossible to use for recreational activities.

The Olympic Outdoor Center sits just around the bend from Cape's Dam, so when floods wrecked the dam, staff there hoped it would be renovated.

“This is the only place that has this pristine water with these gorgeous drops,” said Ben Kvanli who operates the Olympic Outdoor Center.

When he found out the city was going to remove the dam he was devastated, because the program he runs helping wounded veterans would be unable to operate.

The picture-perfect view along the San Marcos River is a far cry from the scene Army Veteran Zachary Lovett saw in Afghanistan.

“June 30, 2015,” Lovett said that was the toughest day of his life.

“That was when we got hit by that IED,” he added.

Lovett is one of the wounded veterans Olympic canoer Ben Kvanli works with on a weekly basis.

“When they are thinking about getting out of the hospital, they're not thinking that they can do adventure sports,” Kvanli said.

When he gets to the river, Zachary is no longer tied to the memories trapped in his head.

“I struggle from PTSD every once in a while, but when you're out on the river you just kind of sit there and you're able to relax and enjoy it,” Lovett said.

Putting a kayak out on the river is a therapy Kvanli knows all too well.

“I got destroyed in a car accident when I was a kid on the way to the ‘89 world championships,” Kvanli said.

His rehab experience only made him stronger. So strong it turned him into an Olympic canoer.

“You have this combination of excitement and then you get true rest,” said Kvanli.

That's something Ben wanted to share with the heroes who fought for the country he competed for.

“Not only is the adventure not over, but in fact your life might get better from here. I know mine did,” Kvanli said. 

But the Veterans Adventure Therapy Ben runs is at risk of shutting down because the City of San Marcos has decided to remove Cape's Dam.

“We recently received this piece of property that has the dam attached to it and the dam is failing,” San Marcos Parks and Operations Manager Bert Stratemann said.

“If they were to do it, what would happen is, this would be a lot narrower and a lot shallower,” Kvanli said.

With less river to navigate, Ben and his veterans could be up a creek without a paddle.

“It's devastating to us. We depend on being able to put our paddlers in here and get them back out here,” Kvanli said. 

City staff said after years of floods the dam's current state is too dangerous the way it is. 

“There are some railroad ties and rebar and things that are sticking up out of the dam,” Stratemann said. 

City leaders said renovating it is much more costly than saying goodbye.

“The idea that they're going to drain this river is devastating,” Kvanli said. 

The City of San Marcos Parks Department said studies show the river could get narrower after the removal of the dam, but they do not think it will impact recreational sports there.
Kvanli said he doesn't think removing the dam is legal because it could impact wildlife there.
So far there is no definite date of removal.

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