ROCKPORT, Texas — Fishing guides like Redfish Charters' Aerich Oliver were thrilled this week when the Aransas County Navigation District recommended removing the barricades blocking access to the boat ramps he uses to run fishing excursions.
“I got really happy when they said (boat ramps) were going to open back up," Oliver said. "That way we could get our business up-and-going again."
He says business has been rough since the COVID-19 scare began. Aransas County blocking boat ramps at the beginning of the month as part of stay-at-home orders didn't help things.
“Business has been really slow-to-none-at-all," he said. "I’ve had many, many cancellations. There has not been really anybody that’s been calling."
Technically, the navigation district vote did not recommend reopening boat ramps -- only removing the barricades. But district Chairman Malcolm Dieckow, who voted against removal, said they're one in the same.
"In reality, if you take the barricades down the boat ramps are open," Dieckow said. "But they’re not open. And they’re not open because our county judge, in conjunction with the rest of us, has decided to protect the citizens of Aransas County. It’s essential not to have a lot of visitors from out-of-town, whether it’s San Antonio or Houston or any parts in between. And if those ramps are open, they’re coming.”
Dieckow said keeping visitors away will prevent more travel-related COVID-19 cases from popping up here.
With that thinking in mind, Rockport Mayor Pat Rios said Aransas Co. Judge Burt Mills came to the decision to keep the barricades in place with his support, and that of Fulton Mayor Jimmy Kendrick.
Despite the decision to continue to block boat ramps, Rios said the trio of leaders is working together to reopen the community.
"We’re hoping to get moving as quickly as possible in getting everything opened up," Rios said. "We want to do a slow, measured opening.”
But slow and measured are not words that struggling business owners want to hear.
“This has been going on since the middle of March, almost, for me," Oliver said. "We’re in April now, and we’re about to be in May. I’ve got to get my business back up-and-running.”