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Endowment seeks to preserve San Marcos landmark boats

By Alec Jennings
University News Service
September 29, 2009

Texas State University-San Marcos is taking steps to ensure that the elegant, handmade, glass-bottom boats that have toured the Aquarena since the middle of the 20th century will continue to do so for many years to come.

Alongside the family of A.B. Rogers, founder of the original Aquarena Springs Resort in 1928, a permanent maintenance endowment has been established to keep the glass bottom boats up to standard for providing tours of the Aquarena for the public. One part of the endowment will be funded by royalties from a book about the history of the resort being published by the Rogers family, while other proceeds will come from sponsorship options from the public.

Ronald Coley, director of Aquarena Center, said the fully-funded endowment will guarantee 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 this endowment was created 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 learning 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 about the boat endowment or the Aquarena Center, please contact them at (512) 245-7570.