Trail Between Library and Gorge Opens
A school bus carrying Hoffman Elementary fifth-graders to a much-anticipated science field trip at Canyon Lake Gorge on Oct. 30 also drove through a red ribbon as part of a special ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new driveway between Tye Preston Memorial Library and gorge headquarters.
The Comal ISD bus pulled into Tye Preston Memorial Library’s (TPML) lower driveway, then turned left onto a new cut-through designed to keep schoolchildren from having to disembark directly onto the shoulder of the busy South Access Road.
The drive connects to the Gorge’s “rock shop,” which within the next two years will be replaced with a new indoor environmental and interpretive learning center that meets the needs of all visitors to Canyon Lake Gorge.
These major facility upgrades to the gorge’s infrastructure will be funded by the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA), which owns the property and has new management and new ideas for Canyon Lake’s popular tourist destination.
During the ribbon-cutting, GBRA Chairman Rusty Brockman surprised employee Happy Henry, who informally spearheaded the project, by naming the driveway “Happy Trail.”
“Because of his ingenuity, professionalism, and commitment to the safety of the schoolchildren who visit this gorge, I’d like to, on behalf of the GBRA, thank you, Happy Henry, for all of your work,” he said, speaking before a gathering of GBRA and library staff and volunteers.
”The driveway here marks the first of many safety projects that we have planned, the GBRA and the gorge society together.”
Brockman described the gorge as an outdoor classroom that improves student performance on standardized tests.
“The gorge is awe-inspiring and a geographical fascination and also is a unique outdoor classroom to students and adults who get to come here and enjoy this special place on God’s great earth,” he said. “It’s connected to and enhances the public-school opportunity for kiddoes who come here to take these tours.”
“These opportunities provide learning things hands-on, and seeing, as opposed to sitting in a classroom just watching a video or reading out of a textbook,” Brockman said.
He thanked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) the Gorge Preservation Society’s (GPS) 80 “dedicated volunteers,” TPML and other GBRA staff for their contribution to the cut-through.
Nathan Pence, the GBRA’s executive manager of Environmental Science and Community Affairs, said the new indoor learning center GBRA plans to build will be approximately 3,000 square feet and designed to serve all types of visitors, including tourists and oil-company employees who visit the gorge to learn more about how water flows through limestone formations.
“The possibilities are endless for the community once we get some basic pieces of the infrastructure in place, and we plan on undertaking the upgrades in a very methodical and thoughtful process, so as to preserve and sustain the treasure and beautiful natural resource that is the Gorge,” he said. “We want to open up access but also want to sustain the resource. We have to be careful, we don’t want to love it to death.”
GBRA Resource Manager Jaynellen Kerr is working closely with GPS to create several self-guided tours of the North Rim that would give students and visitors greater flexibility when scheduling visits.
Currently, three-hour tours of the gorge must be booked sometimes weeks or months in advance.
Fourteen groups of fifth-graders tour the gorge each year. GBRA hopes to increase that number and add students grades 6-12 as well as college students to its educational roster once upgrades to Gorge infrastructure and trails are completed.
“A lot of visitor groups that come bring children with them as a family,” Pence said. “It’s always a learning experience for kids of all ages.”