River outfitters struggle to stay afloat amid COVID-19 shutdown

Several Comal County outfitters renting parking spaces, river access as tube rentals/shuttle services banned

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas – Some river outfitters in the New Braunfels area are trying to stay afloat after they were forced to stop tube rental and shuttle services Friday as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest statewide executive order.

The restriction is an attempt to combat the surge in coronavirus cases in Texas.

One business owner is hoping for a better solution as she tries to keep her business from going completely dry.

“When you shut down and you could be open that’s when it hurts,” said River Sports co-owner Theresa Akard, who has had to come up with new ways to keep business flowing.

Comal County has highest COVID-19 positivity rate since early April

“The only thing we were forced to be able to do, we’re lucky enough to be able to do, is park cars for people to go tubing,” Akard said.

Since Akard is allowed to rent river access to people who bring their own tubes, she and others in the same boat are taking advantage of the situation. Although with tubing season limited to about 100 days out of the year, Akard said she and her staff are feeling the loss.

“There’s a lot of people that rely on me,” Akard said.

Since the new executive order, Akard said she’s had to cut her staff down to 20% and said her business is only making 10% of what it normally makes.

“We had people with reservations. We had to refund all that money,” Akard said.

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While profits are down, the number of COVID-19 cases in the area continues to climb. Comal County officials on Tuesday announced 56 new confirmed and probable cases for an all-time high total of 654 cases. Officials also announced 13 more recoveries for a total of 262. So far, seven people in the county have died from the disease.

While Akard understands the need to take steps to slow the spread, she’s hoping for a compromise.

“I don’t understand how you can close down outfitters and tubing. Water parks are still open. I know they’re more contained, but they were told they could stay open. But they had to limit their capacity. Well, we’re more than willing to do that,” Akard said.

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