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Local effort continues to sustain river

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Floaters bring ice chests and coolers to the river bank at Rio Vista Park
Floaters bring ice chests and coolers to the river bank at Rio Vista Park Jul. 4.

Photo by Victor Rodriguez | Staff Photographer

When it comes to the health and cleanliness of the San Marcos River, all hands are on deck all the time.

Holidays are no exception to the activeness of the community. Although the Fourth of July was rained out, the city anticipated the influx of floaters and had a plan in action to ensure the health of the river.

Keep San Marcos Beautiful Coordinator Amy Kirwin said the conservation crew works extra hard on weekends and holidays. Interns are stationed in city parks where they pick up litter and pass out trash bags.

Kirwin said even though a crew is on duty to pick up trash, community members also have a responsibility to avoid littering. She said she urges floaters to be aware of not only cans and cups, but microliter. Microliter is smaller trash items such as cigarette butts, hair ties and bottle caps.

“Don’t just think about the big things, think about the twist off tie on bread bags or the corner of chip bags,” Kirwin said. “That’s the smallest thing and first thing that floats into the river.”

Director of Neighborhood Services and City Marshall Jeff Caldwell said the effort made by the city is thorough and constant with numerous volunteers.

“Currently we have such a huge effort of cleaning the river inside the city that we don’t really see the same problems that they’re seeing in the other areas of the river,” Caldwell said.

Texas State Tubes, located further downstream, is outside of San Marcos city limits. Therefore, the city has no jurisdiction over the portion of the river that runs alongside Texas State Tubes.

A cage is built in at a park to hold trash bags.
Designated areas to dispose of bagged trash are placed near the river at Rio Vista Park.

The business has taken it into their own hands to clean the river. They have three daily dive cleanups and one daily surface cleanup. Each cleanup diver works a six-hour shift and must return with at least two trash bags full of garbage.

Texas State Tubes also attaches red river bags to each of their coolers. They have employees positioned throughout the river to make sure floaters have the bags tied on tightly.

Texas State Tubes Assistant Manager Erica Gomez is a Texas State alum with a degree in aquatic biology.

Texas State Tubes recently had a Facebook video gain attention after Memorial Day. The footage displayed beer cans littering the bottom of the river in what appears to be mass quantities.

Gomez said the video was taken by a diver early morning before the rest of the cleaning crew joined him. She said the video made the river seem more polluted than it is to deter floaters from littering.

Gomez said she has found three types of pollution sensitive invertebrates in that section of the river after conducting EPT bioindicator tests.

“These results show the health of the stream is not compromised,” Gomez said.

The Facebook video speculated the possibility of a can ban, similar to the one enforced at the Comal River in New Braunfels.

Caldwell said the city has not seriously discussed administering such a law, as it is a better alternative to encourage community members rather than enforce something upon them.

While there may not be a can ban, Styrofoam and glass are not allowed in city parks. Kirwin said city officials are happy to help visitors replace Styrofoam or glass items with paper items.

The city and community members have made it clear the health of the river is a priority. Making a conscious effort to keep the river clean will preserve it for generations well into the future.

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