The Headwaters at the Comal held a groundbreaking ceremony to begin Phase 2 of transforming a retired NBU warehouse at the headwaters of the Comal River into a conservation education and research center March 21.

“We have a tagline on the Headwaters at the Comal—‘Where it begins’—because this is the beginning of many things,” said Judith Dykes-Hoffmann, board president of the Headwaters at the Comal. “This is a special place, we have special plans, for it and today is the beginning of a new phase.”

A master plan was created for the site in 2014 through a stakeholder engagement process and broken into two phases. Phase 1, the Foundation Builders Campaign, was completed in November 2017. Once the master plan for the Headwaters at the Comal is completed, the site will have a restored main building, a picnic-area entrance and multiple community spaces.

“As we found out as we worked on Phase 1, it is an incredible archaeological site,” said Nancy Pappas, managing director of the Headwaters at the Comal. “It is an amazing environmental location, and it is a historic site. And all those participants in that visualization of what we would do with this property realized the importance of it and how we could transform this into being something that the whole community could enjoy.”

There is still a working water plant on the property of the Headwaters at the Comal, which takes water from the Edwards Aquifer and sends it into New Braunfels. The headwaters house the first springs that make up the Comal River, according to Pappas.

The main building will be restored in Phase 2 of the master plan to allow for a variety of programs, events, field trips and meetings. The restored building will use innovative and ecologically friendly technologies that create a nature-oriented environment and feature specialty designed natural lighting and ventilation, according to the organization.

The Headwaters at the Comal master plan has faced challenges throughout construction due to building near a working water plant, archeological findings, flooding and the pandemic, Pappas said.

“But for all of those challenges here at the headwaters, they all always presented a unique opportunity,” Pappas said. “With Texas being 90% private property, it is very unusual that we can create a space where you can view the artifacts that were found right here and understand that people have been coming to the very ground that you're standing on for 10,000 years or more. This is an important place.”

The Headwaters main entrance will feature a green space with picnic tables for visitors to enjoy the environment. Community spaces will be located in the main building in a screened fresh-air exhibit and classroom. A flex space, administrative offices and an additional large meeting space will also be included in the final design.

New Braunfels Utilities CEO Ian Taylor said the fact the Headwaters at the Comal is going to become a public space is special for the community.

“I think it is fitting that there's a water plant here on this side because when you look at [the NBU's] approach to water especially as we've been growing as fast as we have, how we manage that water resource is absolutely critical,” Taylor said. “This is a no-joke situation, and the frequency and duration of drought that we've been seeing for the last 10 to 15 years is new, and it's the new paradigm for us.”

Taylor went on to discuss the One Water Initiative, a water management plan that the NBU, the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and the city of New Braunfels are partnering on implementing.

Elizabeth Bowerman, the president of the Comal County Conservation Alliance, made a donation to the Headwaters at the Comal to assist in funding the development and spoke at the groundbreaking.

“I did what I could, and I encourage everybody who cares about this place, who cares about having land, water and wildlife left for their children [and] grandchildren, ... all the future generations that will keep Comal and New Braunfels the beautiful area that it is, so I'm glad to have had the opportunity to help,” Bowerman said.