Last year at this time, Central Texas was hit hard by a flood that knocked out many of its tourist attractions along the Guadeloupe River. The city of New Braunfels, which is highly dependent on the recreation industry, was really hit by this. I'm pleased to say that one year later, all is well in Comal County.
The dramatic change in appearances goes with the territory, residents say. Though the Guadalupe is peaceful for the moment, its waterfront homes, businesses and campgrounds were no match for a rampaging river swollen by a storm that dumped up to 50 inches of rain on parts of the Hill Country.
At least nine people were killed as about 40 South and Central Texas counties became disaster zones after being pelted by a five-day downpour, rivaling the devastation of a benchmark 1998 flood.
In a close-knit community like New Braunfels, it was no surprise that, as they did in 1998, neighbors would help neighbors rebound from calamity. Though some residents sold their low-lying home sites in favor of higher ground, most stayed to rebuild. And all the waterside businesses that were inundated have resurrected in time for an especially busy tourist season.
"I'm pretty sure we'll have the best weekend we've ever had in 23 years," said Zero Rivers, owner of the Rockin' R River Rides outfitters.
"It's been the best June we've ever had. There's no reason for it not to be the best July," he said.
The community's push to rebuild could have far-reaching effects, [Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce President Michael] Meek added. The flood revived debate over diversifying the local economy and gave new life to proposals to expand the city's convention facilities by 2005 in order to attract more year-round visitation.
The flood also added impetus to those seeking to bring new industries to the region. For instance, the area is hoping to woo some of the suppliers that will serve the Toyota truck manufacturing plant planned in neighboring Bexar County.
"We have some tremendous options ahead of us," said New Braunfels Mayor Adam Cork. "We are moving beyond being a tubing location."
Even so, river recreation remains a cash cow for the area. That's why one of the convention center proposals calls for a new facility overlooking the Comal River.
"We're really taking advantage of our reputation for having great water recreation and tying that to our meetings business," Cork said.
"Last year was tough financially and emotionally because of the flood, but we have great prospects in front of us," he said.