DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — It’s part of the regular routine of George Ortiz and his dog, Lacey. Before heading to work in the morning, he puts the leash on her and then walks from his house off Avenue P through a piece of property that comes out on Second Street across from Westside Park.
Then, they cross Second Street and head to Ruff Park, the dog park at Westside.
But on May 4, Ortiz made a decision that changed everything.
“I didn’t put her on the leash,” he said. “I know I should have, and I take full responsibility.”
Everything was going well until Lacey, a 2½-year-old blue Lacy, took off from his side and scampered across Second Street for Westside Park. Ortiz called to Lacey. She stopped and looked back.
Then, Ortiz saw the car and truck coming down Second Street. He put up his hands to get the drivers’ attention and command Lacey to stay where she was. But Lacey started back across the road to Ortiz.
In a moment that Ortiz recalled vividly, Lacey must have spotted the car coming because she turned and tried to make it back to the park.
She wasn’t quick enough. The car struck Lacey on her right side. She flipped over and went down.
The car, Ortiz said, kept going.
“He must of saw me,” Ortiz said of the driver. “My hands were up.”
Ortiz raced to Lacey. The truck following behind the car pulled over, and three men jumped out to see if they could help.
“I’m responsible,” Ortiz said. “I should have had her on her leash. I do every other time, but this one time …”
Ortiz has lived in Marble Falls since the mid-1980s. He’s seen the city grow, but with it came additional traffic. When the city opened Westside Park and added Ruff Park and a community hall for event rentals, Ortiz was happy to see it all. It gave families in that part of town a place to which they could walk and enjoy.
But he also sees the increase of traffic on Second Street.
“It’s a straight shot right there in front of the park,” Ortiz said. “There’s really nothing to slow cars down. There’s not even a crosswalk from (one side of the road) to the park.”
With more people using Westside Park and the community hall, Ortiz would like to see more efforts to curb traffic speed near the park.
“I see families crossing Second Street with strollers, and you know, that (community hall), it’s rented out about every weekend,” he said. “That’s a lot of people using Westside. Lots of people near the road or crossing it.”
Ultimately, Ortiz would like to see the speed limit be posted at 20 mph with speed bumps in the area of Westside Park.
Marble Falls City Manager Mike Hodge said until Ortiz’s concerns were brought to him, he hadn’t heard of any issues with the park and the traffic.
“So this is the first time it’s been brought to my attention,” he said. “But it’s something I’ll definitely look into.”
Hodge said he’ll take the matter to the city’s traffic committee.
Nearby, Johnson Park, located at 230 Ave. J, has a crosswalk and even speed bumps on the road to control traffic speed. Hodge pointed out that one of the reasons for these is because Johnson Park is on both sides of Avenue J, so there’s quite a bit of pedestrian traffic going back and forth.
“But still, we’ll look at Westside Park and see if there’s something that needs to be done,” the city manager said.
After the accident, Ortiz feared the worst, but Lacey was alive — injured and scared, but alive. The three men in the truck who pulled over stayed with Lacey as Ortiz ran to get his truck so he could take his dog to the veterinarian.
“Her hip was broken in two places. She has a bruised bladder, but it didn’t break,” Ortiz said. “She was just as scared as she could be after the accident.”
The driver eventually did come back and speak with a Marble Falls police officer about the accident.
Lacey will undergo at least eight weeks of therapy as well as other treatments. The veterinarian bills have already topped $5,000. When Ortiz took Lacey in after the accident, the vet asked him if he wanted to treat the dog or euthanize her. But Ortiz never wavered.
“She goes with me everywhere,” he said. “She’s my buddy. I’ll take care of her.”