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Cuero's paddling trail opens

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
Oct. 1, 2010 at 5:01 a.m.

Bill Esparza, of San Antonio, became the first paddler to use the put in on the Guadalupe River at Hell's Gate near Cuero. The Guadalupe Valley Paddling Trail officially opened Friday.

CUERO - Bill Esparza went through Hell's Gate Friday.

The San Antonio resident eased his canoe onto the Guadalupe River as the Guadalupe Valley Paddling Trail officially opened near Cuero.

One of three put-in locations for the trail, the area beneath the bridge on Farm-to-Market Road 766 is known as Hell's Gate. The other two put ins are off state Highway 72 and off FM 236. Esparza planned to paddle the 6.6 miles to the Highway 72 location before exiting the river.

Esparza, whose wife, Sylvia, will shop and eat in Cuero while he is on the water, is scouting the trail for his canoe club in San Antonio, the Alamo City Rivermen.

"It looks really nice," he said. "The river looks pretty."

That is what Cuero Chamber of Commerce executive director Kay Lapp wants to hear.

"We have this beautiful river. We want people to enjoy it," Lapp said. "It's going to impact not just Cuero, but all the communities throughout the county."

The trail was opened Friday as state, county and local officials took part in an official ceremony.

The paddling trail, a project that took three years to come to fruition, is the 21st in the Texas Paddling Trails system.

Melissa Parker, of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, addressed the gathering at the ceremony.

"This is our 13th inland paddling trail. We love the opportunity to partner with our local communities," she said. "We have seen paddling grow and with that comes a love and appreciation for the resource. So we get a conservation bang out of it as well. We hope this trail brings you lots of enjoyment for years to come."

In addition to the city and county governments, Parker also mentioned the efforts of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority on the project.

The opening of the trail is already having an economic impact in Cuero.

Ful-O-Pep Feed Store has begun carrying a line of kayaks and canoes. The prices range from $500 to $1,000, said Dennis Jemelka, company vice president.

"When they first started talking about a paddling trail, we decided to get in on the cutting edge. We sell recreational kayaks for floating or fishing," Jemelka said. "It is a good thing. I started a couple of years ago, going with my family going canoeing and kayaking. It's addicting. We hope it helps Cuero."

Cuero Mayor Sara Post Meyer hopes so, too.

"I think this is a wonderful example of partnership. Partnerships are extremely important in economic development. We can't do it alone," said the mayor. "We are able to economically develop and have fun at it, that's wonderful."

"This sounds like a win-win operation ... most importantly for the people who are going to come in and enjoy this natural area of our community," Meyer said. "Canoe Cuero!"



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