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Letter to the Editor: Float Fest does more harm than good to surrounding communities

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Dear Naomi Wick,

I read with interest your opinion entitled “Float Fest Does More Good Than Harm for San Marcos.” I found the article fascinating because, while I was the main antagonist of the article, you never made an effort to contact me to ask my side of the story. So, here it is, in case you are interested. This, by the way, is the short version. My long version was too wordy to print, but it is somewhere online.

It is true that Float Fest adversely affects my business. My wife (and best friend) Paula and I own and operate a youth-oriented campground on the banks of the San Marcos River (right in the middle of the float part of the fest). We have owned and/or managed campgrounds on the San Marcos River since 1972.

Our campground is located between San Marcos and Martindale in Caldwell County. Caldwell County is the county that was not mentioned in the economic benefit segment of the article. Instead of reaping a financial windfall when Float Fest floats around, Caldwell County spends a significant amount of money providing security and safety on the river. One estimate (and this is from a few years back) was that this county spends over $20,000 on safety and police during this event.

You have to understand that you can’t have youth groups trying to camp during Float Fest. I mean, 10,000 people floating down the San Marcos River means it is too full of tubes for anyone to try to navigate a canoe or kayak – and that is what the majority of our campers want to do. Then, of course, there is the behavior. Let’s just say that many inebriated college kids floating down a river with no law enforcement is conducive to some bad language and behavior. The music that is broadcast from the Float Fest stage at night is also not suitable for youth groups.

So, our camp is closed to our normal clients during Float Fest; but we have lots of folks using our campground that weekend – it’s just that no one is paying to use it. We let the Friends of San Marcos in to pick up trash or count tubes. We let the paid trash cleaners in to collect beer cans. We let the Texas Search and Rescue People set up their RVs. These are the folks who provide a measure of security for the people floating the river. They are also the people who will search for bodies if someone drowns. We let the Martindale Fire Department set up in the campground. We let the Caldwell County Incident Command trailer set up to coordinate all the police, search and rescue volunteers, deputies and DPS personnel. Finally, we let the Texas Search and Rescue volunteers use our chapel and kitchen as a cafeteria in which to feed all the various volunteers.

Hundreds of paid police and volunteers spend their Float Fest weekend providing at least a little bit of safety and security for the float part of the event, and Paula and I play a big part in that happening and have done it for free.

So, this event is a disaster for our business. But what about the river? Just imagine 10,000 people peeing in the river in the course of a day. Imagine half of them walking down the middle of the river with their tubes because they are too drunk to float on their tube (it happens). This is a real river with a mud, sand and gravel bottom. Fish have spawning beds on the bottom. Or used to.

Tom Goynes

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