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Paddlers push for new trails (w/video)

By Sara Sneath
June 8, 2014 at 1:08 a.m.
Updated June 9, 2014 at 1:09 a.m.

David Perez, center, and Christopher Stroop move along quickly after getting used to paddling in the bay, where the wind plays a big role in navigation, from King Fisher Park in Port O'Connor to J-Hook for the  kayak trip.

PORT O'CONNOR - Allan Berger paddles Matagorda Bay for the days when the water is glassy, and the surface reveals aquarium-like views of the sea creatures below.

He paddles for the days when dolphins swim along beside his kayak, and a school of fish jump right over the bow.

But those days are the outliers, the sweet payoffs of a sport all about endurance and humility. It takes an adventurous spirit to get in a kayak, but the wind will humble any paddler.

Berger, who has been kayaking for almost 20 years, grew up in Port O'Connor but lived much of his adult life in Houston.

"I got into kayaking because I lived in the city, and I missed the bay," Berger said.

The soft-spoken, conservation-minded chairman of the San Antonio Bay Partnership board has been trying to make kayaking in the area more accessible. The Port O'Connor Paddling Trail has a 12-mile main trail as well as two loops. Berger wants Texas Parks and Wildlife to approve two add-ons to that trail, including a 10-mile round-trip from Little Jetties to the J-Hook at Pass Cavallo.

In June, a Texas Parks and Wildlife representative in the ecotourism department will make sure that the proposed paddling trails have proper GPS and physical markers and that they're safe for use before giving them the OK, Berger said.

Sunday, about 10 people made their way out of the Inn at Clark's marina to paddle a modified version of the proposed add-on to J-Hook.

Alan Raby, who owns Dolphin Kayak, and David Heinicke, who works for Texas Parks and Wildlife, led the tour of experienced kayakers.

Bonnie Benson, of Palacios, took part in the tour. Benson taught herself how to kayak two years ago, when she saw her neighbor's kayak and asked to take it out for a spin.

Kayaking seemed like a natural transition for Benson, who now advocates for the sport in Matagorda County.

"I like being out on the water. I've always been a swimmer," Benson said.

A beginner kayak can run between $500 to $1,000, said Raby. Despite the initial expense, the sport is accessible because it doesn't require a boat ramp to slip into the water or fuel.

"You have to commit your own energy to it," Berger adds.

Once the two proposed trails have been approved, Port O'Connor Chamber of Commerce, Westside Calhoun County Navigation District, Calhoun County and the San Antonio Bay Partnership will maintain the trails, which cost a couple hundred dollars a year, Berger said.

"Which is not much money compared to other recreation standards," Berger said.

Kayaking also has a low environmental cost.

"Paddling is a nonconsumptive use of the bay. You can paddle all you want," Berger said.



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