COVER: Glass-bottom boats ply the surface of Spring Lake near the historic former Spring Lake Park Hotel, built in 1926. PHOTO VIA MEADOWS CENTER FOR WATER AND THE ENVIRONMENT.
FROM SUBMITTED REPORTS
The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment’s historic fleet of wooden glass-bottom boats at Texas State University are receiving a makeover, both cosmetically and functionally so that visitors can continue a 70-year Spring Lake tradition.
Since 1945, glass-bottom boats have been an integral tradition to exploring the springs and habitat of Spring Lake. In 2014, The Meadows Center began the process of redesigning and replacing the wooden-framed hulls with a fiberglass composite hull, which is stronger and more water-resistant.
“Roughly 80 percent of the yearly glass-bottom boat maintenance and restoration cost is related to the wooden-framed hulls,” said Deborah Lane, the Spring Lake educational operations manager. “The new fiberglass composite hulls will increase the life of the boats and once all five-boat hulls have been rebuilt, decrease annual boat maintenance and restoration costs.”
The Meadows Center’s fleet includes five boats, with the oldest built in 1945 and the newest built in 1978. Boat 1953 was the first to receive a new hull, and is expected to be hitting the water near the end of April. Over the next four years, The Meadows Center will pull one boat each year until the entire fleet has been restored with the new composite hull.
“All of these boats were hand-built by many different individuals, so none of them are exactly the same,” Spring Lake manager Aaron Wallendorf said. “Restoration on an item like this typically requires a craftsman that can do that; everything is custom.”
In addition to the new hulls, within the next couple weeks the exteriors of the boats also are receiving alterations with the installation of new signs sporting The Meadows Center logo.
“We appreciate the generous support from Texas State University Marketing in helping us with the installation of new signs as well as Sign Crafters Inc. for working onsite with us to mount the graphics on the water, because it is quite the process to take a boat out of the water,” Wallendorf said.