All of the figures aren’t yet in for the city’s 2019 river season, but indicators are pointing to another successful campaign with normal attendance and revenues.
That’s the word from Amy Niles, river operations manager, who delivered her annual report to New Braunfels City Council on Monday. Niles said Comal River visitors had a pretty good idea of what to expect and how to behave — which made the season go a lot easier this year.
“The weather this year was perfect for tubing, and we didn’t have any rainout days,” said Niles in her review of the season, which began May 1 and concluded Labor Day weekend.
Niles said more visitors returned to Cypress Bend and River Acres parks and increased compliance with revised city river-related ordinances. The disposable container ordinance was extended to include portions along the Guadalupe River, but oversized cooler size limits were increased from 16 to 30 quarts. Both respectively led to 17% and 67% fewer citations
issued during the season.
“A lot of that was due to people being more prepared when they showed up this season,” she said. “They seemed to be more educated about the rules, but we also had more people who prohibited them from bringing those items in ahead of time.”
Niles said fewer slips and falls were reported after concrete etching was added at the Last Tuber’s Exit. She said more tubers chose to go over Stinky Falls’ low-water dam, which at times created dangerous log jams of traffic going up river.
“There’s no reasonable explanations of why people chose to go around the buoys but that’s something we’re going to keep an eye on in the future,” she said.
There was a remarkable response to parking changes, approved prior to the season that added spaces on East San Antonio Street between South Liberty Avenue and the Comal River Bridge, and along Hinman Island Drive. Both supplemented spaces in the Elizabeth Street lot adjacent to the Wurstfest grounds.
More than 4,200 signed up for Resident River Parking Passes, allowing city residents free access to those lots on weekdays, except for spaces in Prince Solms Park. The ParkMobile system, offering several kiosks that collected payments and attendance information, was also helpful.
“We paid a lot of attention to how and when people were parking,” Niles said. “Last year, only about 25% those parking were using ParkMobile, but this year it jumped up to 52%,” she said. “That was encouraging for us and allowed us to collect a lot of data on when and where they park, what time of day and at which locations.”
Parking revenues — which included $44,000 garnered from the new lots established since 2018 — helped increase overall river fund revenues from $1.21 million (actual in 2017-18) to $1.25 million (estimated 2018-19).
Pending this season’s final tally, the city is projecting the river fund won’t need a general fund bailout for the second consecutive year after it received infusions of $34,745 in 2017-18 and $91,268 in 2016-17.
And, while 2019 totals only reflect collections between March and August, amounts of litter have drastically declined. In 2017, the last year prior to reinforcement of the city’s container ordinances, 35,970 pounds of debris was collected from the Comal River, compared to the 14,842 pounds collected thus far this year.
“It’s really exciting to see that total drop down,” Niles said. “I’m hearing from our residents about the difference it makes — especially in the (reduction) of cans they’re seeing on the river.”
Niles said 25 residents shared their thoughts on upcoming river management during a public input session on Sept. 11. She said their ideas and those of the city’s River Activities Committee include ways to raise revenues and improve the Last Tubers’ Exit as well as transportation staging areas over the next few months.
Council members congratulated Niles and Assistant City Manager Kristi Aday on the season.
“I just want to say that this is the 13th month that we’ve not been involved in a river-related lawsuit,” Mayor Barron Casteel said, referring to the five years of litigation that barred city enforcement of river ordinances approved by voters in 2011.
The ordinances were reinstated by a district court before the 2018 river season.
On Monday, council members approved:
• Appointments of Rebekah Helton to the Watershed Advisory Committee for a term ending April 18, 2020 and Emily Lane and Kristen Carden to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for terms ending Oct. 13, 2022.
• Purchases of garbage collection vehicles and recurring annual expenditures for fiscal year 2019-20; contracts associated with the $21 million Goodwin/Conrads Lane improvement project; custodial services at city facilities; and Westside Community Center library expansion.
• Clarifications of wording to the ordinance outlining certification and education pay stipends for firefighters and police officers approved Sept. 23; second and final readings of ordinances amending city industrial zoning definitions; rezoning of property located at 144 Rueckle Road; and prohibition of handbills or flyers at properties displaying signs prohibiting solicitation.
For more, visit the city website at www.nbtexas.org.