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The Dock near Coleto Creek Park gets face-lift

The Dock near Coleto Creek Park has attracted visitors to its patio for almost two years, but owners said the completion of extensive interior renovations were cause for a grand opening celebration.

At the Saturday evening grand opening, owners Nancy Heibel and her husband, Jason Hernandez, were able to showcase the renovations to the space that once hosted the Lost Cajun restaurant, which they bought from Lionel and Josie Flores in fall 2017.

For more than a year, Heibel said, they exclusively used the venue’s outdoor space because Hurricane Harvey caused the ceiling to cave in and the air conditioning to break down.

“We pretty much redid 65% to 70% of the inside,” Heibel said.

Heibel said she plans to rent the reopened indoor space as a venue but that she also plans to hold monthly events with live music to promote her business.

In addition to the celebrations she hopes renters will have in her space, Heibel hopes The Dock’s family-friendly environment will attract visitors to the events she plans to start in late October.

“Last night, the kids were out here playing basketball,” Heibel said Sunday afternoon.

Though Heibel said she has no plans to restore the space into a restaurant, she invites food trucks out to sell their fare to event attendees. Dad’s Place BBQ sold food at the Saturday night event. Other trucks to visit included Smokeaholicks BBQ & Bayou Cajun Meat Market, The Fry Shack and Sweet Dreamz Bakery.

Neal Tolbert, a Cuero-based musician, played at the event Saturday evening after performing there twice last summer.

Tolbert, who’s played shows at several Victoria-area bars, said about 40 people came out to the Saturday night. With the revamped inside area, Tolbert said, the area could become a bigger attraction for local fans of live music.

“As far as Coleto, it’s the only place for musicians to play,” Tolbert said. “It’s just a really relaxed, refreshing atmosphere.”

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Riders saddle up to support St. Jude

Twenty-two riders and their horses participated in the 22nd Saddle Up for St. Jude Trail Ride all day Saturday.

The event was sponsored by Rawhide Riders Inc. and John Beck. This was the second year the trail ride supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was hosted at Beck Ranch.

“I just provide the place,” Beck said. “I’m blessed with what the good Lord gave me.”

The $15 registration fee included a 14-mile trail ride followed by dinner.

Rawhide Riders Inc. purchased the ingredients for the dinner, and Branded Cowboy Church donated their time and efforts to cook the meal through their chuckwagon ministry.

The dinner consisted of pork roast, corn casserole, beans, German potatoes, broccoli salad and desserts made by participants.

Mike Whitfield, pastor of Branded Cowboy Church, said a prayer, and trail boss Matt Alfred led the group through the pastures.

After the trail ride, there were other opportunities for people to help support St. Jude.

There was a 50/50 raffle and an auction with items donated by community supporters, including a saddle, a cornhole set, a handmade bench, horse feed and more.

Henry Castillo has participated in the trail ride for about 20 years and attended the event with his niece, Cynthia Morales.

“I’m retired now. This is my big pastime,” Castillo said. “I enjoy it. I think if I could be on a horse every day, I would.”

Terrie Alfred drove the sound truck to meet the riders for their water breaks and brought the coolers.

“This is the smallest ride we’ve had in a while,” Terrie Alfred said.

Event coordinator Tammy Barnett believes this decrease was a result of the heat.

“People don’t want to ride in this heat, but September is cancer awareness month, so that’s why we do it in September,” Barnett said.

According to Matt Alfred, the trail ride was a huge success. More than 50 people attended the dinner and auction, raising more than $5,000 for St. Jude.

“Now that the riders know this ranch, we will be looking for a new place to ride next year,” Barnett said.

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Public health
Researchers continue to study Harvey's impact on health

Two years after Hurricane Harvey soaked drywall, ripped holes in roofs and flooded petrochemical plants, experts are still teasing out the ways the storm made survivors sicker.

A team of public health researchers who sprung into action immediately after the storm presented some of their findings at a symposium at the Baylor College of Medicine last month, detailing the ways Harvey and the damage it wrought impacted Texans’ health. Although most of the research subjects were Houston residents, many of the conclusions are applicable to survivors of Hurricane Harvey throughout Texas, including Victoria residents.

Melissa Bondy, a Baylor professor and the head of epidemiology and population sciences at the university, was part of a broad partnership that tracked a range of different health effects with different researchers.

One of the most consistent reports of Harvey survivors who participated in focus groups after the storm was the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder, Bondy said.

“We’ve talked to people who are really concerned and nervous every time it rains,” Bondy said.

One of the most consistent impacts of any major natural disaster is on survivors’ mental health. Experts say natural disasters, particularly those that cause deaths and significant damage to property and infrastructure, can exacerbate survivors’ existing mental health conditions as well as cause new symptoms to arise.

Eric Storch worked with a team to rapidly make mental health providers available to survivors via telemedicine. Although Storch and his colleagues plan to publish more research, Storch said many of the survivors faced mental stressors from after the hurricane, not just the stress and anxiety of the storm itself.

Survivors had to cope with “dealing with trying to sort out insurance if they had that, or if they didn’t have that, what that meant for their livelihood, living in a home that was half ripped out or losing possessions or valuables that were irreplaceable,” he said. They had to face “the stress of having to return to life but also having things in such upheaval.”

Factors from having a list of needed prescriptions and the doctors who prescribed them to creating a plan for how to safely care for a pet during a hurricane are critical to maintaining mental well-being during and after a disaster. For example, Storch said, having to leave pets behind during an evacuation was a major stressor for kids.

Bondy’s team also looked at how floodwaters exposed Houston residents to chemicals and how working and living in water-soaked homes affected their risk of respiratory illnesses. Along with experts at Oregon State University, researchers handed out special wristbands for residents cleaning up their flooded homes and neighborhoods so they could measure exposure to up to 1,530 different chemicals. Harvey flooded or damaged at least 14 hazardous waste sites, including the Formosa plant in Port Comfort.

An analysis of the wristbands showed that an average of 26 chemicals were present in each one. What’s not yet known is how much of certain chemicals, including the ones detected in the wristbands, is needed to affect health.