State Representative Kyle Biedermann this week floated a proposal to open up commercial tubing businesses in New Braunfels, but such efforts ran aground on state opposition.
Biedermann sent a letter to New Braunfels Mayor Rusty Brockman, encouraging him to inform the governor of a plan to reopen commercial tubing businesses under a self-imposed health and safety rules that the city would regulate and enforce.
Tubing businesses on the Comal and Guadalupe rivers ceased operations last month after Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order mandating those businesses close to contain the spread of COVID-19.
In response to Biedermann’s letter, Brockman said city officials contacted the State Disaster Counsel, a division of the Attorney General’s Office, who provides legal counsel to political subdivisions during a declared disaster.
“The Disaster Counsel has confirmed that the city has no authority to enact plans or take action in conflict with the governor’s orders as suggested by Rep. Biedermann. The city of New Braunfels intends to continue following the directives of the governor.”
In the letter, Biedermann wrote that Abbott ordered the closure of those businesses “without regard for local efforts to regulate and enforce a coordinated health and safety plan.”
“This order seems even more unfair considering water parks are allowed to operate with a similar health and safety plan,” Biedermann wrote. “In an effort to save their companies and salvage some of the summer season, local tubing businesses have organized and offered the attached plan to help ensure the safety of customers and control density on the river. The rules will also make sure tubing customers abide by both state and local mandates concerning the wearing of masks and social distancing.”
Under the proposed plan, each outfitter, as well as the city river booths, would have 500 specific colored wristbands per weekend day. One wristband allocated per person would be the limit per outfitter on that day. Each outfitter would have an additional 10 color-specific complimentary bands that can be used for residents with a resident card.
With 12 outfitters, including the city, about 6,000 tubers at most would come through per day. Some outfitters have never put out 500 in a day while others have exceeded that number, but under the proposal, all would agree to manage what they can handle without exceeding 500 customers.
No personal tubes would be allowed through any outfitter on the Comal River, under the proposal, and tubes would be outfitter branded. Personal tubes would only be allowed at city river booths. This would help distinguish between customers. If there are any issues, it can be easily traced back to a specific company.
The plan would not allow for trades or sale of wristbands between outfitters or the city.
The 500 wristbands should be spread out throughout the day using a reservation system that tells people when they pay what their “entry float time” is. The city would do this as well, so they would have float time “tickets” and encourage guests to wait in Prince Solms Park or their cars, where they can social distance. The outfitters would discourage any lines.
The proposed plan would allow for one trip per person and no refloats. Outfitters would set up a rotation of employees at the exit to cut off the wristbands to prevent an outfitter tuber from walking back to the park for a second float.
Outfitters would place the same graphics and information on their webpages and social media accounts with the assistance of the New Braunfels Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The plan would mandate shuttle drivers wear a mask. All shuttles would have dedicated seating so that no customers can sit within 6 feet of each other.
Customers would fill the back of the vehicle up first, so customers are not walking by each other.
The plan would mandate customers wear masks on shuttles. Drivers would be responsible for sanitizing their vehicle after each use or shuttle
To further space people out, tubing shuttle drivers would drop off customers at fewer locations.
In the letter, Biederman wrote that he is encouraging the city to inform the governor’s office that “you will be regulating and enforcing a similar health and safety plan as water parks and will be allowing these tubing businesses to open and abide by their self-imposed safety measures to help keep Texans safe while allowing them to make a living and benefit the local economy.”
Brockman said the city would continue to follow directives from the governor’s office.
“While we appreciate Rep. Biedermann’s perspective on the tubing industry in New Braunfels, the city of New Braunfels has, from the very beginning, closely followed the direction of the governor’s office. We believe that the governor is being advised by both health professionals and the business community to make decisions that are in the best interest of Texas.”