Runners, cyclists and trail patrons welcomed the return of the water coolers at the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail this morning.
RunTex, a local sporting goods store, has provided the water to trail-users for twenty years. But last November, the city removed the coolers over sanitation concerns.
The Travis County Health and Human Services Department advised Austin Parks and Recreation to suspend the service until the providers could prove that they meet the same basic health code requirements as commercial food and beverage providers.
Now, RunTex is using cable locks on the jugs to prevent tampering. The company has also provided proof that the coolers are being cleaned in a licensed facility.
Despite the earlier sanitation concerns, Austin Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Jesse Vargas says the water coolers do their part to address a safety issue of the city: dehydration on the trails, particularly during the warmer months.
After the two-month hiatus, trail visitors are quick to use the coolers again. “I’ve seen maybe 30 people get water from the station while you and I have been talking, so what that’s about a three-four minute span?” Vargas said. “It’s pretty impressive.”
Vargas says the city is working to install permanent drinking services along the trails but that, until then, RunTex is providing an invaluable service.