Tubing the Trinity?


Dave "Uncle Dave" Schultz was dressed like a tubing veteran.

With Budweiser swim trunks, a can of Natural Ice in his hand and a pack of Marlboros hanging around his neck in a waterproof container, the Fort Worth resident was ready to go.

"This is great," Schultz said. "Now I don't have to go all of the way to the Guadalupe to go tubing. All of our friends can come up here and join us."

Schultz was one of 40 or so tubers who took up the invitation from the Trinity River Vision Authority to come out Thursday for a "Tubing Happy Hour" along the river near Colonial Country Club and Forest Park.

The tubers, with coolers in floats, drew gawkers as cyclists stopped and motorists slowed down along the Rogers Road Bridge.

It's a sight that could become routine.

Two more floats are in the works this summer, and a more permanent presence could be coming soon.

"Based on the demand we saw for this event, there will probably be something next spring or summer," said J.D. Granger, executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority.

New Braunfels-based Rockin' R River Rides, which provided some mesh bags and other equipment for Thursday's float, will make a fact-finding trip next week to explore the viability of setting up tubing along the Trinity.

"It sure seems plausible from everything I've seen and heard," said Shane Wolf, a Rockin' R spokesman.

On July 4, Trinity River Vision provided 100 inner tubes during the Fort Worth's Fourth celebration and was overwhelmed by the response.

"People literally came in (and) cut off their kids' jeans so they could tube," Granger said. "We're ordering at least 300 tubes for next July because of the demand."

And for those who question the wisdom of swimming in the Trinity, officials say it is safe for tubing. While there are warnings against consuming fish from stretches of the Clear and West forks through Fort Worth, there are no advisories against swimming.

Matthew Burnett of Arlington, a friend of Schultz's, said changing that perception is one of the challenges.

"I think there's a lot of people that think it's gray water and don't realize it is coming from Lake Benbrook," Burnett said. "From talking to my friends, I think a lot of them would like to come out here and try it."

The Trinity is not a spring-fed river like the Comal or the San Marcos, but Rockin' R thinks that plenty of others like Burnett and Schultz might be willing to go tubing in Fort Worth.

"I think it would be good for a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon, regardless of what the perception is," Wolf said. "We're open to looking at the thing. We've done Costa Rica, Colorado and helped set up other businesses, so we've done these types of things before."

While Texas tubing has generally been focused on Central Texas, people do go tubing in North Texas along the Brazos River, west of Mineral Wells and near Glen Rose. The Paluxy River, also near Glen Rose, is another popular spot.

The Fort Worth tubing season would likely be shorter than in New Braunfels, where it runs from March to October, but Wolf believes that enough North Texans are willing to do a little "urban tubing."

About 25 percent of the company's customers are from this area, he said.

"Doing something on the water continues to be one of the top two or three things on a vacationer's mind," Wolf said. "... I think there's a market up there you can open up."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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