by Julye Keeble, staff writer
From March to November of 2019, 335 volunteers donated 1,443 hours to clean 9,718 pounds of trash from local rivers, Texas Hill Country River Region executive director Annabell McNew told Uvalde County officials.
THCRR manages the Uvalde County river cleanup program, “Don’t Trash Where You Splash.” This effort raised $14,743 for 29 non-profits through the Keep Texas Waterways Clean Volunteer Program. The program, in partnership with HEB/Central Market, offers a charitable donation of $10 per person, per hour spent cleaning for groups of six or more people on scheduled days.
The Uvalde Food Pantry, Humane Society of Uvalde and the Flights to Furever program, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church Border Ministry program, El Progreso Library and the Uvalde Good Egg Enterprises all received donations, among others.
McNew presented a review of 2019 organizational activities on Dec. 9 to the Uvalde County Commissioners’ Court.
The organization administers 99 percent of the Uvalde County hotel occupancy tax revenue fund. Funds are utilized to promote tourism in the area, hold events, and clean trash from area river locations. The remaining 1 percent is used by Uvalde County for administration costs.
McNew reported that in 2019, new rental properties became available, which created some challenges and led to more lodging bookings over weekends and less throughout the week. Overall, she stated, the growth was positive, as Uvalde County destinations were able to accommodate more visitors.
Families are vacationing differently, McNew said, explaining that families now look for experiences at their lodging establishment, rather than simply a place to stay near a travel destination.
Advertising strategies included content generated by events as well as niche interests such as hunting, fishing, and wedding destination marketing. Ads were placed with KSAT television station, YOLO TX television program, Texas Highways Magazine and Texas Monthly, local and state visitors guides and newspapers, the Wall Street Journal, and on social media.
Women Who Wander, a women’s retreat which exceeded expectations, and Frio Family Camp events began in 2019 and will be held annually. McNew reported three weddings were held in Uvalde county by families of attendees of the Women Who Wander event, and one family also returned to attend the Frio Family Camp.
The second Women Who Wander retreat is being held from March 27-29, 2020.
McNew and executive assistant Alison Withers are now based in the new Uvalde County Visitor Center, located at 21563 Highway 127 in Concan. The new center held a grand opening celebration on Dec. 17, 2019.
THCRR was founded in 1998 to promote Uvalde County as a tourism destination, and to help increase off-season occupancy rates for local lodging. It is governed by a seven-member board of directors who are elected to serve three-year terms.
Current board members are Jamie Vaden Holmes, president; Tim Hester, vice president; Wendi Hightower, treasurer; Chase Roosa; Jennifer Bain; Rob Fayle; and Melissa Bates.