Possum Kingdom tour shows survival of businesses near lake




Posted on April 19, 2012 at 5:13 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 19 at 8:18 PM

POSSUM KINGDOM -- From the water, Possum Kingdom Lake is picture perfect. 

It is a stark contrast from what homeowners watched one year ago when 126 homes were destroyed and 126,000 acres burned.

From his boat, Jay Naylor remembered seeing houses go up in smoke, and he knew the fire was burning money. 

He said business at his boat rental and apparel shop was off 30 percent for 2011.  Expansion plans were sunk when tourists and weekend visitors didn't show up for the summer season.

Naylor took out loans to survive. 

"Then we had the drought, and it got even worse,” said Naylor. “Then the second fire.  It was way too much drama."

The Possum Kingdom Chamber of Commerce hired Naylor to give reporters and business owners a tour of the lake. 

Most business owners said the rumors about the destruction from the April 2011 fire were more difficult to overcome than the fire itself.

Dean Cowser's YMCA campsite fielded phone calls asking about dead animals, scorched facilities and air quality.  He said he laughed. The winds cleared the air, and winter rain raised the lake levels. 

He pointed to the camp Thursday, where the dining hall was packed with campers.

"As you can see, we weren't affected at all,” said Cowser. “It was just a normal work day for us."

Record rains over the winter months have returned the lake’s level close to normal. Other lakes in west and central Texas are still too low for boating and recreation. All of those paying customers have been funneled to Possum Kingdom.

Britt Hawrylak saw the opportunity and opened a new boat storage business.

He has 35 slots complete so far, and all of them are full.  He has plans for 70 more by July.

"Have a waiting list for the new storage units, and it should be full here pretty quick," Hawrylak predicted.

Homes burned in April are being reconstructed.  Builders said the average homeowner has plans for a house that is 66 percent larger than before.

The Possum Kingdom Chamber said all campsites, lodging, boat rentals and restaurants are open and taking reservations for the summer months.

E-mail cnorton@wfaa.com