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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Texas Tradition Discontinued?

I read this article this morning from the Houston Chronicle:

I'm thinking of this like the oil moratorium in the Gulf if Mexico and its affect on the state of Louisiana on a much smaller, local scale....

If the citizens of New Braunfels think this going to help their town, they could be sorely mistaken.

As for most of the problems in Texas this summer, blame can point a finger straight at the sky and it's unwillingness to rain. The severe drought kept tourists off the Guadalupe this summer. So they flocked to the Comal; I served witness as I did so myself. I actually visited both rivers. At the Guadalupe, there was a much smaller crowd (although I was there on a Sunday) and there were several stretches of river where my friends and I were forced to wade with our tubes to deeper waters. This was much different from my Guadalupe floats in the two previous years, which were easy and crowded, lined with residents offering keg stands, buzzing with floating stereos, and, as always, very fun. This year, my second trip to float the river ended up at the Comal, since I was with family who lives in New Braunfels. It was PACKED. We could hardly find parking, and had to pay $10 to get it. When we finally got in the river I can say that it was plenty fun and relaxing. We did run into some cops--not me, of course but we did see them hand out tickets to floaters participating in underage drinking or drug use. We carried a bag with us for trash and kept it in the cooler for safe-keeping. I was carded at the end of my float, showed that I was legal, and went on my merry way, with a sunburn and new memory under my belt--er, bikini. To me, this is how the rivers of Texas are meant to be enjoyed.

So the Comal was packed this year, and about 58% of the citizens of New Braunfels that make their residence on and near the river don't like it. They should bear in mind that this is an irregularity. Typically there is not nearly as much activity or litter on the Comal. But they've voted to ban disposable containers on both the Comal and the stretch of Guadalupe that runs through their town, now rendering it seemingly pointless (and even unsafe as floaters can no longer carry water bottles) for many to go tubing for the day. They're in for a different kind of drought--a drought of tourists, and that means a drought of revenue for local businesses that thrive on tourism from Schlitterbahn goers to river floaters every summer. The businesses outside the Comal river were selling parking this summer for $10 a car. PER CAR. I'd like to see the revenue they pulled in this summer as compared to previous summers. Better yet, I'd like to also see the revenue they earn in the summer versus the rest of the year. You think they're complaining? Of course not. (In fact, many local businesses are suing on the grounds that this violates state laws.) Because they know that without water and booze allowed on the river they are SOL. These won't be the only businesses affected--hotels, gas stations, eateries, bars, Gruene Hall, other minor tourist spots (like Natural Bridge Caverns), and more will be affected by this. What does that mean? Unemployment. Hey, isn't that our country's biggest problem today? Hmmm.... Well, if the people of New Braunfels are employed and their kids are unable to find summer jobs, pretty soon their entire town's GDP is falling. Then they're REALLY gonna whine. Property values will decline and businesses will close shop or move to more welcoming waters. Yup. It really seems like putting a stopper on floating the river is going to help New Braunfels. Come on, people. It's only about 3-4 months out of the year! And it's the sustainability of your cute little town!!

I DO care about the state of our Texas rivers and want them clean and preserved. So it's my responsibility as a Texan not to litter and to keep them clean, like I mentioned my friends and I did above. Easier said than done, I know, but perhaps regulations would both maintain the economy and keep the river clean "for the next generation." Hire MORE cops or city/river maintenance workers to keep the place clean and orderly (hey, more jobs!).

My argument is for employment and enjoyment. I can't blame the citizens of New Braunfels for wanting to keep the place they live clean and orderly, but if they want to remain living there with the kind of lifestyle they have now, they can't afford for tourism to decline. Your people are your greatest resource! How do you think the people in Vail, Colorado, Santa Monica, California, Orlando, Florida, or Washington, D.C. feel? They probably get annoyed with tourists, sure, but a lot of their jobs probably depend on the revenue brought in by those tourists. Funnily enough, I wonder how many New Braunfels citizens will be making vacations to "tourist" destinations this year... let's not be hypocrites.

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