Volunteers took to the river this weekend to clean up during Float Fest.
A total of 100 volunteers cleaned the river during the festival and encouraged attendees to do the same, said Dianne Wassenich, program director of the San Marcos River Foundation.
Tubing outfitters expected about 10,000 people to attend Float Fest, although only 5,500 would be able to float the river at a time, according to an Aug. 26 University Star article.
“We spent all weekend with our volunteers, standing on the bank of the river and handing out 5,000 net bags for people to use for their litter,” Wassenich said. “Another group bought 5,000 hot dogs and grilled those and handed them out in exchange for the net bags full of trash.”
Even though the city does hire contractors and divers for annual river cleanups, there is no one to pick up the litter as it travels downstream at events like Float Fest, Wassenich said.
“Our work is done with volunteers,” Wassenich said. “The outfitters are starting to clean up, but so far they’ve been cleaning up what’s visible. There are thousands of cans down in the water.”
Cans get washed further downstream when it floods and pollute more of the river, Wassenich said. The entire bottom of the river gets “paved in beer cans.”
Litter prevention works when those at the river talk to each person who is about to float, but it takes a lot of people to do that, she said.
“We can’t ask people to stand in the river eight hours a day every day because there aren’t volunteers to do that,” Wassenich said.
The responsibility to encourage tubers to keep the river clean lies with the tubing outfitters, she said.
“They are making the money, so they need to prevent the trash from going into the river, and they can do that by talking one-on-one with their tubers as they rent and by putting a net bag on every tube,” Wassenich said.
According to Wassnenich, the solution to pollution is “educating people to respect this wonderful river that they're getting in and not to trash it.”