Silence -- that’s the most telling thing that I’ve heard from the most powerful tubing-regulating political body in Comal County during our recent debate about tubing in our neck of the woods. That political body is the W.O.R.D. (Water-Oriented Recreation District), and the W.O.R.D.’s silence speaks volumes about, and signals a far different approach to, regulating tubing in most of Comal County than what has been coming out of New Braunfels lately.

Throughout the recent New Braunfels can ban debate, what most outsiders haven’t realized, and many locals have forgotten, is that the New Braunfels City Council does not regulate most of the tubing that takes place in Comal County during a normal tourist season. Comal County has two rivers that are popular with tubers, the Comal, which runs inside of New Braunfels, and the Guadalupe, most of which runs outside of New Braunfels city limits. When there is normal river flow in the Guadalupe, the vast majority of tourists opt to going tubing on the Guadalupe, upstream of New Braunfels. This stretch of the the Guadalupe is regulated by the W.O.R.D., a special regulatory body created by the Texas Legislature, and W.O.R.D. creates the rules that govern tubing in most of Comal County. The can ban and other rules being debated in New Braunfels and litigated in the courts simply don’t apply to most of the places in Comal County where tubers prefer to float. Of course, the Guadalupe River upstream of New Braunfels has some of the same issues that affect the Comal. Much of the river is bordered by private residences, and tourists can sometimes get out of hand on the Guadalupe just like they can on the Comal.

Yet notice what you have not heard from W.O.R.D. in the past few months, or years. W.O.R.D. hasn’t called for a can ban, or tried to regulate cooler sizers, or restricted tube sizes, or imposed a boom box ordinance, or tried to limit the number of tubers on the river, or any of the other inane measures that have been taken by the New Braunfels City County. And the Comal County Sheriff’s Office, which handles law enforcement upstream of New Braunfels, rather than attempt a zero-tolerance policy like the New Braunfels Police Department on the Comal, has focused more on actually protecting public safety.

Sure, if you commit an offense under the nose of a deputy, you still risk getting cited or arrested. But the S.O.’s emphasis has always been on getting people off of the water who are actually bothering other tubers, who pose a threat to the safety of others or themselves, or who are violating property rights. I predict that, if you we have decent river flow in the Guadalupe and the tubers move upstream, you won’t see the County Judge or the Sheriff standing in front of television cameras this summer wailing about the “crisis” on the Guadalupe River. They will simply do what they have done every year for the last couple of decades -- say that a few rowdy tubers on the river is something that they’ve seen plenty of times before and that their deputies can handle just fine. There’s one other difference between W.O.R.D. and the New Braunfels City Council. While W.O.R.D. spends its fair share of taxpayer money, it doesn’t waste gobs of it trying to defend illegal ordinances that do nothing to protect the public. Sometimes silence really is golden.