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Reporter’s Notebook: Beach Boy Blues

Monday, April 1, 2019 by Austin Monitor

In the photo: A 1958 Lonestar Meteor, helmed by Liz Barhydt and John Derrick, members of the Austin Rowing Club. 

Elvis has left the building and gone onto the water… In short order, there will be a new old way to get around on Lady Bird Lake. Many moons ago, Glastron, the No. 1 fiberglass boat producer in 20th-century America, was founded in Austin by Bob Hammond, but only recently were his original creations brought back to the capital of the Lone Star State. In partnership with Michigan-based Retro Boat Rentals, the Austin Rowing Club has brought a 1958 Lonestar Meteor into its boathouse to test Austinites’ interest in electrically propelled speedboats. The idea is to reintroduce these classic fiberglass boats while equipping them for the modern era with environmentally friendly electric motors. According to Kevin Reinis, the executive director of the Austin Rowing Club, the boats are all-original. That means the Meteor has a completely preserved body and engine casing; it is only the insides of the engine that have been converted to an electric motor. Although the service is still in concept stages,  Reinis told the Parks and Recreation Board at its March 26 meeting that the 1958 classic is available to be taken out for a spin on a scheduled basis via Retro Boat Rentals. In order to make the rental service fully available to the public, Reinis said, “(it) still needs to be put through the appropriate city of Austin approvals.” With an environmentally friendly engine and limits to ensure that the boat remains within Lady Bird Lake speed requirements for electric boats, Reinis expressed his hopes that there will shortly be more of these boats out on the water. He told the board, “Like if Elvis were to have a boat, this is what it would be.”

East Austin recreation center renamed in a flood of tears… The Virginia L. Brown Recreation Center, in the St. Johns neighborhood of Northeast Austin, offers youth, adult and senior programs and provides gym use to nearby J.J. Pickle Elementary School. As a central part of the neighborhood, it only makes sense that the on-site gymnasium would be named after a central figure in the community. Parks and Recreation Department Acting Assistant Director Lucas Massie came to the March 26 meeting of the Parks and Recreation Board to propose naming the gym after the recently deceased Rev. Mervin J. Griffin, who dedicated 29 years of his life to providing recreational programming, leadership and mentoring to the Austin community. “It’s a win-win for me whatever decision you make,” said his widow Ardtria Griffin. “I am just thankful and humbled just to be given the opportunity to speak and to know how much he impacted other people’s lives.” With the recommendation of staff, the board unanimously approved the new name for the rec-center gym. After the vote, Ardtria Griffin profusely and tearfully thanked the board and parks staff for commemorating her husband. “You guys really don’t know how much it means for me,” she said. The new name will not need Council’s approval and will be implemented at the discretion of the Parks and Recreation Department.

Resubdivision postponement due to typo at PC… At the most recent Planning Commission meeting, neighbors came to speak in opposition to a resubdivision case at 4412 and 4414 Merle Drive. Neighbor Catherine Lee Weir pointed out that the agenda had a typo and did not include the 4414 address. That typo alone made the Planning Commission vote to postpone the item to the next meeting. According to Commissioner Fayez Kazi, typically the commission’s hands are tied on subdivisions when staff has found that all of the requirements have been satisfied. Weir said the character of her South Austin neighborhood has changed dramatically in the past few years. “I am adamantly opposed to what is going on here,” said Weir, a 40-year resident. “I have seen lot after lot be cannibalized – and that is the only appropriate word – by developers buying out original – well, maybe not original – but owners, and then putting as many properties as they could on that piece of land.” The commission left the item on the consent agenda to be postponed until the next meeting. The consent agenda passed unanimously with Commission Chair James Shieh and Commissioner Todd Shaw absent.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Jessi Devenyns and Alyx Wilson.

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