My River POV: Connie Real

The River Authority
Dec 03, 2021
General

Kayaking on the Rio Grande River. Photo Credit: Connie Real

The “My River POV” series provides readers the opportunity to learn about the unique insight and experiences of the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) staff and their personal connection to the San Antonio River in hopes of inspiring stewardship of area creeks and rivers.

Connie Real Portrait

Connie Real, Real Estate Manager

I grew up along the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels, Texas, and am a member of a founding family of New Braunfels. My great-great-grandfather, Heinrich Reininger, immigrated to Texas with his family aboard the brig Ferdinand, arriving in Galveston (Indianola) on December 5, 1844. 

As a child, I enjoyed every summer camping, swimming, and fishing on the Guadalupe River.  My father worked for a company that built Canyon Lake in 1964 to conserve water and control flash flooding. We would spend lunch hours watching him work moving dirt with his bulldozer as they built the dam and dug the ravine, and we were always rewarded with a splash in the river on our way home.

On May 12, 1972, rain fell hard in New Braunfels, with sixteen inches of rain falling below Canyon Dam. My father woke us up at 3:00 a.m. to what sounded like a roaring locomotive.  There was at least a foot of water in our front yard, and we could hear neighbors down the street screaming for help. At least 17 people died because of the flooding, trapped on their rooftops with the rising water from the Guadalupe. Many more citizens were injured, and thousands were left homeless. My father took us in the pre-dawn hours to one of the hardest-hit areas, the Landa Park Estates neighborhood. Many of the homes had been completely washed away, leaving a layer of foot-deep mud in their place. I have a vivid memory of my father shining a flashlight on a giant green frog sitting among the destruction.

Flooding destruction to house

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Flooding destruction aftermath

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Aftermath of historic flooding in New Braunfels

Aftermath of historic flooding in New Braunfels in 1972. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Shortly after this disaster, our community mobilized to help one another in a way that nobody had seen before. My father owned a gasoline station near one of the hardest-hit areas. We worked 24-hour days providing gasoline to those in need, cooking meals, and helping people who lost everything recover their possessions. Living through this experience motivated me to pursue a career helping others during times of disaster. I have since been very interested in projects where people could be bought out of floodplains and offered an opportunity to remove them from harm’s way.

 

Views along the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River

Views along the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River. Photo Credit: Connie Real

In the last thirty years, I have assisted in preparing Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants to buy out homes in flood-prone areas for the City of Austin and New Braunfels. As part of this FEMA program, I would meet with eligible property owners, typically following a flood event, to purchase their homes for a governmental agency and help relocate them to a home that was not in the floodplain. These houses were then demolished, and the land returned to nature, making beautiful greenways and parks where people could enjoy the river. In return, the river can flood freely without putting people in danger. I have purchased over one hundred homes utilizing these grant programs, and it is the most rewarding work I have ever done.

As a Texas Real Estate Broker, I am fortunate and grateful to practice my profession while working for the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority). I feel very passionate about the services the River Authority provides to protect the San Antonio River Basin, and the work I accomplish gives my life a meaning and purpose. The Real Estate Department provides real estate acquisition, disposition services, and property management for the River Authority. We work with virtually all the River Authority programs in a support capacity to fulfill their real estate needs. Real Estate staff also work on projects with the River Authority’s partners when the acquisition of Real property rights is necessary.

Although the primary function is to provide quality real estate and property management services, we also strive to provide excellent customer service with responsiveness and accountability in a professional and timely manner. In addition, we seek to protect our natural resources and monitor our properties by using site visits and GIS technology.    

Views along the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River

Views along the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River. Photo Credit: Connie Real

I am highly enthusiastic about the work I do for the River Authority. I have a fantastic team of real estate professionals that feel equally passionate about purchasing parkland and trails and assisting with projects to protect the San Antonio River and our tributaries. I am very grateful to work with a dedicated group of real estate professionals, engineers, and scientists.

I encourage everyone to follow the River Authority on our social media channels and to explore our website to learn more about the San Antonio River Basinupcoming events, and how you can keep the San Antonio River safe, clean, and enjoyable.