By Alec Jennings
University News Service
October 1, 2009
Texas State University-San Marcos alongside the A.B. Rogers family are working to ensure that the elegant, handmade, glass-bottom boats that have toured the Aquarena since the middle of the 20th century will remain in service for decades to come.
The family of A.B. Rogers, founder of the original Aquarena Springs Resort in 1928, will publish a book chronicling the history of the resort with royalties from its sales going to aide in preservation and maintenance of the original boats.
"The glass-bottom boats were an integral part of Aquarena from its inception. They have always provided a way for people to really appreciate the beauty of the San Marcos River," said Doni Weber, great-granddaughter of A.B. Rogers. "I am thrilled that the Aquarena Center continues to use the boats today for that purpose, but I know the preservation of these boats takes tremendous resources. Our entire family agreed that the proceeds should go toward keeping part of A.B. and Paul Rogers’ dream alive for generations to come."
Ronald Coley, director, Aquarena Center, said other revenue sources are being sought to ensure the boats' continued operation.
"We have this legacy of these handmade heirlooms that were built specifically for this place," Coley said. "Each boat has a history and is a part of a legacy which is what we hope to preserve. We want to make sure these boats will be here 100 years from now."
Coley said establishing a steady source of funding for maintenance and upkeep on the boats is an important element to ensuring the success of the Aquarena. While educational programs at the Aquarena Center are funded by the revenue they generate, the aging boats can require as much as $60,000 a year for maintenance and periodic overhauls.
Furthermore, the center welcomes more than 125,000 visitors annually, many of them school children to learn about river resources, aquatic life and the sensitive ecosystem. Tours on the glass bottom boats are essential to that educational experience.
Overhauls and necessary repairs on the boats have been postponed in the past due to financial constraints. Now, only five of the original 10 boats are in active operation.
"These truly are unique, one-of-a-kind treasures," Coley said. "We will be able to preserve and update these original landmarks with the help of the Rogers family and private sponsorships."
For more information or to find out how to contribute to the preservation efforts, please contact Ted McKinnon at (512) 245-8301 or email TMCKINNON@txstate.edu.