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Plan to Clean Up San Marcos River Could Mean You Pay More for Tubing

Patrick Lewis/flickr
Safety and environmental concerns along the San Marcos River prompted the state senate to pass a bill that could create a fee system for river recreation.

Each year, more than 80,000 people visit the San Marcos River to tube (or "toob") the waters and have a good time. But those crowds leave a lot of litter and create safety concerns for local law enforcement. Now a bill at the state senate aims to solve the problem.

Senate Bill 234 would let voters in Caldwell and Guadalupe counties set up a “recreation district” on the river downstream of San Marcos that would be funded by fees charged to river revelers. The district would have the authority to hire law enforcement to patrol the water and crack down on litter.

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), the bill's author, said in a press release that it "would protect this precious natural resource, enhance public safety and enjoyment of the river and preserve the private property rights of area landowners."

“Things are pretty wild and crazy pretty much all summer long. Downstream of San Marcos in this area, that’s not covered by any city jurisdiction,” says Diane Wassinick of the San Marcos River Foundation, a group that includes riverside property owners.

Wassinick supports the bill. For one, she says it will improve public safety. But not everyone is so jazzed about the proposal.

“We want to be good neighbors, and we think we can solve the problem ourselves,” says Craig Colemen, who owns Don's Fish Camp, an inner tube rental place on the river. He and another business have put forward a plan to hire security personnel themselves. They worry that fees charged to inner tubers to fund the “recreation district” would cut into their bottom line. They also think the bill could open the door open to an alcohol ban along this stretch of the San Marcos.

“One thing that our customers do like to do is float down the river and enjoy a beer or two,” Colemen says.

Or, sometimes, three.

Wassinick does not think the bill will lead to a “can ban” like has been tried on other parts of the San Marcos. SB 234 passed out of the senate this week with unanimous approval. The House has yet to wade in.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.