The Comal River Improvements Project is still in its adolescence but would have a noticeable impact on residents and tourists floating the river.
Freese and Nichols engineer Grady Hillhouse debuted early project concepts to the committee, who were asked to pick three to four options that will then undergo fluid dynamic modeling.
Reactions to proposed plans revolved around safety, management of tubers and water levels, and the experience for people on the river.
“One of the design criteria should be that it should be fun,” Hillhouse said at the meeting.
Selected concepts for the tube chute included a second lower-speed chute on the opposite side of the river, a retrofit of the dam featuring several gradual step-downs between current elevations and alterations to the existing chute that would pacify it to a degree by straightening and lengthening its course.
These concepts would all provide more tranquil paths for tubers hesitant to ride through the current chute. People getting out of the river at the chute’s entrance to avoid it can cause a traffic jam for tubers.
The plan most widely favored by committee members for Stinky Falls is a dam retrofit that would allow tubers to pass down the center of the structure instead of being routed to the side as it functions now, which causes bottlenecking.
Several members of the committee commented that prices could be raised for swiftwater rescue training, which could provide additional revenue to the city.
Committee member Heather Harrison of Hope Hospice noted that any adjustments to tube rental prices could result in people entering the river at Faust Bridge to avoid paying fees altogether.
A system of baffles more suitable for kayakers was rejected for both sites by the committee.
“The goal at the end of this is to say ‘OK, this option isn’t going to work; this option did; what if we combine these two?’” Hillhouse said. “Basically, [we want] to end up with what we would consider a preferred concept to narrow it down to one option.”