BeerCan.ChelseaYohn.July5

Empty beer cans thrown July 5 alongside the San Marcos River.

With neighboring towns prohibiting the use of disposable containers on waterways within their city limits, eyes turn to San Marcos questioning if it will follow suit by administering its own container restrictions.

While San Marcos encourages river goers to use litter bags to dispose of their waste, the city has no restrictions against non-reusable containers or cans on the river. City regulations prohibit littering on the river and visitors who do litter can face a fine between $250-500.

Despite its regulations, the city does not have 24/7 surveillance of the river to prevent citizens from following the rules. Additionally, there are currently no laws prohibiting disposable trash on the river but items such as styrofoam and glass are banned.

The opportunity to litter alone makes some citizens and neighboring towns worry for the river's cleanliness.

At the Sept. 29 San Marcos City Council meeting, Martindale City Council member Mike McClabb visited the council and asked them to consider enforcing an ordinance, similar to those in Martindale and New Braunfels, that prohibits disposal containers on the river.

McClabb's visit to the San Marcos City Council was to also inform them that litter from the San Marcos area is flowing downstream into Martindale. He explained that trash can accumulate over time in river crevices then wash up after intense storms.

“A lot of times the current goes, [trash] typically falls into current and then it goes into, typically an eddy. A deep eddy, where the debris actually collects and that's, that's pretty much the difficulty of it. That's kind of in a nutshell why I think San Marcos needs to enact [a ban],” McClabb said.

Both Martindale and New Braunfels have laws that prohibit disposable containers on the river. Law enforcement in the towns also regularly patrol to impose the laws.

According to Lawrence Spradley, a New Braunfels City Council member, in 2011, before the container ordinance was enforced, the town collected 177,221 pounds of litter from the river. Spradley said as of Oct. 14, there have only been 17,000 pounds collected.

“I would think the cities that have rivers where people come and use any kind of non-disposable containers, should take a look at this,” Spradley said. “Before it first started 177,000 pounds was removed. So, you're paying someone to remove all that litter, so you have people and boats going down to get the litter, and then you also have scuba divers that go down and get things that's on the bottom of the river also."

Ben Kvanli, a San Marcos citizen and Texas State alumnus, runs Veterans Adventure Therapy, a nonprofit service where he kayaks the San Marcos River with citizens and teaches them about the river's ecology, history and geology.

"I take folks out first thing in the morning, you know, before any of the folks get into swim, and we go down and clear kayaks and basically just give a tour," Kvanli said.

Kvanli has lived in San Marcos since 1994. Within those years, he has seen an increase in tourism and river visitors across the town. However, with the density of litter that comes with the increase in visitors, Kvanli has noticed more citizens care about the river and fight to change the amount of trash accumulated.

“It boils down to something real simple, and that is that, you know, we either have to take care of what we got, or we won't have it anymore and so it doesn't have to be your whole life like it is for me," Kvanli said.

As the San Marcos population grows, McClabb hopes San Marcos follows the lead of Martindale and New Braunfels in order to protect the river's overall wellbeing due to it connecting to other towns.

“The more people, it's just going to equate to more trash so, it really needs to be done,” McClabb said. “Just to eliminate that trash issue and on a monetary point, the city of San Marcos has contractors that pick-up trash, and, you know, that could be a reduction of that expense."

The best prevention, McClabb said, is to stop the trash from entering the river before it becomes an issue.

“We are all sister cities, and we all need to protect our beautiful San Marcos River,” McClabb said.

Note: The City of San Marcos denied The University Star’s request to be interviewed for this story as there has been no direction or action from the City Council to impose a ban on disposable containers on the river.

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