Archive for the 'Boerne' Category

New roads are worth the effort

Lajitas thermThe two hottest months of the year in Big Bend National Park are May and June. Don’t ask me why. My family and I found out the hard way.

Wanting a springtime, family-oriented, “off-the-grid” getaway, I booked a trip to Big Bend for Memorial Day weekend.

On the afternoon we arrived, the thermometer on the west-facing front porch of our vacation rental in Lajitas, Texas, read 120 degrees. That was as high as the thermometer went.

“It’s not that bad,” I explained to the kids. “It’s a dry heat. Plus, there’s a breeze.”

“It feels like we’re standing in front of a giant hair dryer,” one of them observed.

Fortunately, the Rio Grande was a stone’s throw away. And while I was initially concerned about water quality, the elements necessitated a swim across the border.

Mexican bovines met us on the other side. They didn’t mind the heat. They also provided an opportunity for more paternal perspective.

“See, look,” I told the kids. “At least you’re not wearing a black leather bodysuit.”

We spent the next three days taking on Big Bend’s classic hikes. The river trails were scorching. We took a dip in 105-degree hot springs to cool off after a pass through Boquillas Canyon.

The Chisos Mountain trails were doable thanks to a 20-degree temperature differential, but not without a lot of water and salty snacks.

During our 8-mile hike up Emory Peak, a question occurred to me, “As hard as it is to hike this trail, how much harder was it to build?”

I offered the question up to my kids. They nearly backed me off a ledge like I was Scar in The Lion King.

Trails, like roads, don’t happen by chance. They take planning, forethought, execution and effort. They require political will and determination driven by a desire for public good, both present and future.

Just like I’ve never heard the death-bed phrase, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office,” I’ve never heard, “I wish we never built that road.”

Unlike some government-funded “tragedies of the commons,” roads generally generate prosperity. They are usually utilized by a diversity of citizens.

In response to a joint request for help from Kendall County and the City of Boerne, the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) spent two years and more than $1 million developing its Kendall Gateway Study.

Extensive citizen feedback was considered to determine ways to increase mobility in our fast-growing county. The data-driven plan is currently before Kendall County’s Commissioners Court and Boerne’s City Council. We need to get something out of the time and money spent.

I know it’s not easy. Someone’s backyard will have a line through it. We still need to put lines on the map, and sooner than later.

Construction won’t start on any proposed roadway for years. No TXDOT funding is yet on the table – and it never will be unless we start pushing for it through the Bexar County-dominated Metropolitan Planning Organization.

But we can’t start pushing for funding until local leaders put lines on a map.

Regional TXDOT Planning Director Jonathan Bean noted recently that Loop 337 around New Braunfels was first placed on a right-of-way map in the 1960s.

Very few people think that road – or any other road, for that matter – is a bad idea now.

 

Kevin Thompson writes frequently for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

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Two cents’ worth on CVS

sach in black and white
A presentation to Boerne’s Historic Landmark Commission created a firestorm earlier this month. A friend suggested re-naming the group Historic Landmine Commission.

Following the presentation, a rumor spread fast: National pharmacy chain CVS is coming to the corner of Main Street and River Road.

The reality is many hoops of local government stand in CVS’s way. The Commission’s “discussion item” was miles away from a groundbreaking.

When I first heard of CVS going where a hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint stood for decades, the idea was anathema to me. I like my barbecue orders taken with a pencil and cut-up copy paper. Riverside Market was a brief stop in Mayberry.

Besides, where else could you buy nightcrawlers for the fish and white bread for the ducks of Cibolo Creek?

The Shell gas station / Riverside Market combination was not what tourism professionals would recommend for a gateway welcome center. But it was Boerne.

And it was also sold in 2012 by the Boerne family who had owned it for years. A San Antonio convenience store operator and then real estate investors have owned it since.

Boerne’s Main Street has long been filled with utility. People needed a livery stable and then automobile repair shops. They needed groceries, medicines, gas and places to stay and eat. All these sprang up at one time or another up and down Main Street from Riverside Market.

Directly across Main Street from Riverside, Sach’s Garage operated as the self-proclaimed “oldest garage in town.” City leaders recently referenced a black and white photo of the garage when the CVS developer asked what building type would fit Boerne’s historic district.

The developer presented renderings of a CVS Pharmacy styled like a 1940s garage to the Historic Landmark Commission two weeks ago. The drawings actually don’t look that bad. They look like an upscale CVS you’d see in Estes Park, CO, or Seaside, FL.

The outcry against CVS seems ubiquitous, but I haven’t heard what people want instead. The hole-in-the-wall is gone. Something else will be built. What should it be?

Public art sculptures? A museum? A gigantic Guadalupe bass with a six foot tall, wide-open mouth for tourists to take selfies in?

How about a restaurant with a deck overlooking Cibolo Creek? Several of those already exist within a stone’s throw of the site. A city park? There’s one across the street. A frozen yogurt shop? There’s one next door. A coffee shop and bakery? Try two doors down.

What about a boutique organic grocery or an outdoor gear outfitter?

Unfortunately, most of these ideas are not financially sustainable at this point. Like other businesses currently along Main, outside sources of income would be required for them to survive. For long-term prosperity, we need more economic viability, not less.

Other questions to ponder: How do we get dry goods and groceries to growing populations on the north and east sides of Boerne? Would it help traffic congestion to the south if we did? Would a series of smaller stores minimize the need for big boxes?

As for Main Street and River Road, an old-fashioned drugstore complete with diner-style grill and soda fountain milkshakes sounds good to me. If CVS will change its exterior to fit our historic district, maybe the pharmacy would retrofit its interior, too.

Kevin Thompson writes frequently for The Boerne Star. Follow him at www.kwt.info.

 

Boerne has welcomed progress before

Land developers often use blank slates for their exploits. They build ground-up on large swaths of vacant property. Think Orlando, Florida, or The Woodlands north of Houston.

Boerne’s different. We have what some fast-developing areas don’t. In a word, we have history. History gives a deeper character that can make growth meaningful, inviting and attractive. Some places must build history around growth. Boerne can shape growth around its history.

Some local businesses are building on Boerne’s past. Cibolo Creek Brewing is bringing Main Street to life like Max Beseler’s “Metropolitan Saloon” did starting in 1891. The saloon occupied the building where The Daily Grind now brews coffee.

Long-time Boerne resident Tommy Mathews is doing something similar in the former Bergmann Lumber building. Tusculum Brewing is “coming soon.”

Down Blanco Road, local florist Urban Flowers occupies a 1951 wood frame structure that builders Robert Thornton and Travis Roberson preserved in their recent commercial revitalization of the Schwarz homestead.

These business leaders don’t see progress as a threat to quality of life. Neither did many of their predecessors.

In Historic Images of Boerne, Garland Perry republished a San Antonio Daily Express article from March 1878 describing the arrival of the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad in Boerne.

According to the story, six hundred San Antonians “of almost every imaginable race, color, sex and previous condition of servitude” boarded seven passenger coaches destined for the “mountains” of Boerne.

Riders enjoyed Lone Star beer during the two-hour trip that whistled to a stop at the end of Theissen Street just passed “Cibolo falls,” a series of water chutes downstream from present-day Cibolo Nature Center.

The Boerne brass band played as guests disembarked. Dr. W.G. Kingsbury un-reluctantly welcomed guests to “our little hamlet of Boerne.”

Kingsbury was was once tasked by the governor of Texas to recruit settlers to the state. He had offices in St. Louis, Missouri, and London, England.

According to Kingsbury, it was “so great a luxury to inhale [the] mountain air” that even if guests didn’t eat, they “would go home tonight declaring it the grandest holiday.”

“But such is not our intention,” Kingsbury relieved the audience. “Old men, young men, saints, sinners, Democrats and Republicans” had joined up to organize a barbecue dinner for the guests. The arrival of the rail line had the Boerne-ites in a “state of excitement never witnessed.”

Boerne understood the benefits the iron horse would bring. Travel times to San Antonio would be cut significantly. Greater quantities of goods could be delivered and stored to meet demand. Twice-daily mail and newspaper service would deliver new knowledge.

Kingsbury compared the train’s arrival to the biblical return of the prodigal son:

Let mirth and joy abound.

We once were lost, but now are found.

Our hills are iron bound.

“Go kill the fatted calf,” he urged.

The Daily Express reporter summed up the day’s festivities this way: “Nobody seemed to want to come home…The town was in a frolic, and is liable to keep it up for a day or two longer…If you want to have a jolly time, go to Boerne.”

It doesn’t sound like “Boerne Texas Gone Forever” was charcoaled to the rear of any horse-drawn wagon on the grounds that day.

 

Kevin Thompson writes frequently for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

7 Ways to Improve Education

You’ve heard of the dog days of summer. Well, welcome to the dog days of school.

Standardized tests are almost done, but the standardized calendar is not. Daylight lingers longer, but attention spans do not. It’s a good time to review what works well and what wears us out.

Boerne ISD has its online parent satisfaction survey open through Friday. Superintendent Tommy Price is also assembling committees to set a new strategic direction for BISD. As the conversations unfold, here are seven ideas for improvement:

  1. Group elementary students by their birth quarter. In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell highlights the significant difference between success rates of people born just after an age cutoff and those born months later.

Teaching to the lowest common denominator is a common temptation in education. Grouping students of like ages, down to the month or quarter of their birth, will challenge high performers and help those who need extra attention.

  1. Teach more values. In a politically correct, pluralistic society, we’re better at teaching skills than values. I want my kids to have both.

If kids get values (honesty, hard work, discipline, service over self, respect for authority, etc.), they will acquire skills, even if it’s after they leave home. Knowledge and information aren’t limiting factors in our interconnected world. Character and wisdom are.

  1. Help kids develop a fierce mastery of technology. Boerne resident Kelly Newcom, author of http://www.BraveParenting.net, says smartphone pitfalls (pornography, bullying, addictive behavior) have dramatically increased incidences of suicide, self-harm and depression among kids nationwide.

Schools should carefully monitor and/or restrict device use on campuses and buses. Reducing dependence on smartphones will help kids master offline communication skills and sharpen the original supercomputer: the human brain.

  1. Transition to school uniforms. As decorum slides in our image-obsessed society, a move in the other direction would serve students well.

Uniforms work in third world countries and inner city charter schools. They work in pricey private and parochial schools. They will work in BISD. Let students express their independence and creativity in their work products, not in their attire.

  1. Close the gap between elementary and secondary start times. Elementary students shouldn’t have to go to school in the dark for half the year and then go to bed in the light the other half.

Various issues affect scheduling: bus routes, parental work schedules, morning and evening activities, student performance studies, etc. Still, start times closer to 8:00 am are ideal for all ages.

  1. Shorten middle school block periods. Hour and a half classes are too long, especially for boys. Teachers try to break up the monotony, and block schedules help with moving teachers between campuses, but we need a better way to organize the day.

7. Let the adults be adults. In our “customer is always right” world, the chief / tribesman line can get blurry.

Today, university students sit on regent boards and high schoolers help select principals. A mix of perspectives is beneficial, so long as the wisdom and expectations of the aged prevail.

***

Basic parenting is faltering in some circles. Educators are being asked to pick up the slack. They need our support and encouragement. They also need our input. The dog days of school are a great time to offer it.

 

Kevin Thompson writes frequently for The Boerne Star. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

Texas town wrestles with growth

The slogan “BOERNE, TEXAS GONE FOREVER” is appearing on a growing number of bumpers. The sticker is usually attached to a work truck or a seasoned sedan. A faded Bush/Cheney sticker may also represent.

I have not chatted with any driver of any vehicle bearing the inscription, but I believe I understand the sentiment: The good days are gone. The suburbs have come.

I saw the sticker most recently at a relatively new burger café in town. The restaurant has a playground, a party room and a patio. Evidently, the driver was trying to warm up to “new Boerne” with an ice cold milkshake. He or she was enjoying an amenity made possible only by growth.

Therein lies the irony: We typically love what’s on the other side of the traffic.

Nearly ten years ago when my first child trotted out for his first soccer game at Boerne City Park, all the cars could fit in the parking lot. Today, you might have to park down by River Road or on the Kendall County Fairgrounds. The number of players and fans keeps increasing.

When my fourth child trotted out to his first game this fall, I endured the inconvenience because I want him to play on manicured fields in a well-run program. I try to remember: If the facilities were sub-par and the organization was lacking, I’d have plenty of prime spaces to choose from.

A recent snippet in the “Star Rewind” section of these pages told of a “New business for Boerne.” The year was 1955. Almega Corporation of Austin planned to come to Boerne “to manufacture toys, games and novelties and set up a complete industrial silk screening plant.”

The company had agreed to purchase an historic Main Street building built by Henry Adler in 1911. Bergmann Lumber, the oldest hardware store in Kendall County and the standard bearer for mom and pop shops attempting to stay relevant in a big box age, now occupies the space.

I don’t know how long Almega Corporation stayed in the Adler Building or if they even moved in. I don’t know what wooden or metal toys they made there or what garments they decorated. Someone with a BOERNE, TEXAS GONE FOREVER bumper sticker could probably tell me.

But the thought of a new business once occupying a now classic structure should give us some perspective.

I needed this perspective recently when I saw a strange object in town. I thought it had rolled off the back of a construction truck before I realized it was part of Boerne’s new public art initiative. Art al Fresco (art in “fresh air”) is a joint effort of the City of Boerne and the local arts community.

It may take me some time to recognize the beauty in my midst. I may very well wish for a windmill or a water tower instead. But I am committed to staying open to change.

Boerne has grown in spurts for decades. Every generation experiences it. The old Boerne commemorated on bumper stickers is really just a figment of a nostalgic imagination. The tranquility we remember over milkshakes was once someone else’s traffic.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Boerne’s Walker heads to The Masters

After winning $1.1 million and, more importantly, a new pair of cowboy boots at San Antonio’s Valero Texas Open ten days ago, Boerne resident Jimmy Walker is off to Augusta. Is he ready?

“He’s primed and ready,” friend Andrew Tosdevin said after a round with Walker last week at Cordillera Ranch. “He just took $17 dollars off me.”

When he’s not taking on earth’s top golfers as the 13th best player in the world, Walker takes on a close-knit clan at the Jack Nicklaus course ten miles east of Boerne. The group plays up to four times a week when Walker is home, according to Cordillera golf pro Marc DeWall.

“They’re all good players, all have single-digit handicaps,” DeWall explained. “Jimmy seems to enjoy their camaraderie and the banter back and forth.”

“We treat him like one of the boys,” said Tosdevin, an accented Brit who met Walker on the driving range three years ago. The two had struck up a conversation about a shared interest: wine. “We talk trash, but in a pleasant way.”

Golf is, after all, a gentleman’s game. But it’s not for the weak-willed. Walker endured nearly a decade of ups and downs between the Nationwide and PGA tours before recording a PGA victory – in his 188th event.

Walker recently told Golf Digest about a low point on the journey:

“After six years as a pro my career hadn’t gone anywhere. Funds were running low, I’d never had a job outside of playing golf, and I was feeling dead-ended. I phoned my wife, Erin, and broached the idea of the two of us getting real jobs.

“When both people are crying on a long-distance call, that’s rock bottom. The next week in West Virginia was the hottest weather I’d ever played golf in. Just putting one foot in front of the other, I somehow won the tournament.”

Seven years and $16 million later, Walker is a different golfer, thanks in part to the work of teaching pro Brian Gathright of San Antonio’s Oak Hills Country Club and Butch Harmon who coached Tiger Woods through eight of his fourteen major tournament wins.

But Walker is no different a person, say DeWall and Tosdevin. He still enjoys time with his wife and sons. He still enjoys taking pictures of stars through a telescope.

“Jimmy is extremely generous with his time and resources,” DeWall explained. “He gives back in ways people don’t know about. He’s given a lot to The First Tee, a program that helps kids from all walks of life build character, cultivate values and make healthy choices through the game of golf.”

Tosdevin agreed, “The beautiful thing about Jimmy is he is just a regular guy. He always has time for people. He’s absolutely genuine and humble. He is simply a super nice person.”

Such a description was once often par for the course among celebrity types. That’s obviously no longer the case, even with golfers.

So it’s refreshing when you hear it and further proof that someone special will represent Cordillera Ranch and Boerne at The Master’s later this week. As the current leader in FedEx Cup points, Walker will be among the favorites.

“He’s playing beautifully,” Tosdevin assured me. “He has a great chance to win.”

At golf and life.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at www.kwt.info.

 

This is Boerne…you never know

A sad but undeterred mother stood on the driveway of her adult daughter’s burned down home. As she picked up some pieces and contemplated the road ahead, she surmised, “This is Boerne. You never know what might happen.”

She wasn’t talking about the tragedy that happened last week at 123 Becker Street on the north end of town. She was talking about the recovery.

By the time I showed up with shovel and wheelbarrow to help with the clean up, Boerne ISD bond contractor Bartlett-Cocke already volunteered to demolish and haul off the totaled structure. An architect donated his services to draw new plans. Several homebuilders expressed a desire to help.

The displaced family of six relocated temporarily to one of the last available 3-bedroom apartments in Boerne. The fire department donated a couple of beds. A thrift store donated a sofa. A random stranger gave a check for $500. A neighbor brought over a dozen eggs. All in less than a week. Yes, this is Boerne.

It is a unique sensation to live in a place so generous. Some people are generous because they can be. Others are generous because they choose to be. Either way, Boerne has a heritage of generosity.

I once heard a civic leader count more than fifty active non-profit capital campaigns in Kendall County. That’s not normal. That’s Boerne.

The persevering mother is confident in her daughter’s ability to fight back.

“We’ll be okay. We come from a very tough family. My mother lived to be 95 years old and only needed one medication.”

Judging by the matriarch’s perspective, I suspect the family will fight back.

“We’re really just thankful everyone made it out alive. The fire department expected casualties when they arrived. They did a very good job. The fire didn’t touch the houses on either side.”

A correlation exists among gratefulness and toughness and longevity.

A correlation also exists between generosity and desirability. Throughout our nation’s history, immigrants have come in droves in part because of the generosity within our DNA.

The same could be said about Boerne. People want to move here in part because our citizens are willing to give their time and wealth to make this a great place to live.

One truth about life is that the tables are always turning. Prosperity one day can turn – on a dime – into disaster the next. You never know when it will be your turn to need. That’s as good a reason as any to give.

If you would like to contribute to the family of 123 Becker, go to http://www.gofundme.com/h8qls4. So far, 83 people have given a total of $10,525. The donation site has been shared 277 times on social media. This is Boerne.

Disasters often strike at the worst possible times, such as two weeks before Thanksgiving. But bad timing can bring people together in good ways. What better time to express gratitude for the gifts we’ve received than to pay them forward to those who need?

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. Follow him at www.kwt.info. Email him at kevin@kwt.info.


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