In December 2014, a Texas senator introduced a bill to the Senate proposing the creation of water preservation districts to improve the safety and cleanliness of the San Marcos River.
Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) filed Senate Bill 234 on Dec. 9, 2014. The bill requires all counties that share a border with the San Marcos River to create a park and recreation district to “create an offense and provide penalties” for infractions committed in the area. The Water Oriented Recreation Districts (W.O.R.D.) will allow for the collection of fees including tolls.
The purpose of the bill is to improve the safety and cleanliness of the river, and it is a great idea. San Marcos is known for its river, which is often marketed as a selling point for the city and university. This bill allows districts to enact law enforcement patrols of the river. The increase in police presence will prove beneficial for river floaters and help decrease the crime rate in the city.
According to an April 23 University Star article, funding for the W.O.R.D.s would come from a tax placed on tubing outfitters. The companies would be required to charge river floaters $1-$3 to rent tubes and utilize shuttles. Some owners of the tubing outfitters do not support the bill, but the editorial board finds this taxation perfectly reasonable. The river is one of the best parts of college life in San Marcos and should be protected especially if the cost is a measly $2 wristband.
Students and locals may be concerned about increased police presence at the river. In the Star article Dianne Wassenich, San Marcos river program director, discussed the “well-known notion” that there is no police activity in the river area. Wassenich mentioned the high rates of assault that take place in the area. The police would be there to protect the river and the people floating down it, not harass anyone.
Additionally, underage drinking is a part of tubing culture. The presence of law enforcement would help cut down on this bad habit many floaters participate in. Curbing underage drinking is not the main point of the bill, but will serve as a positive side effect.
The Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee will vote on the bill soon. Then the House will vote on it and, barring a veto from the governor, it will become law. If the bill becomes a law, more steps must take place in order for the districts to be established. One of those steps includes a mandate stating the commissioners court for each county affected must hold a hearing for citizens’ arguments for and against the district.
The bill is a great way to ensure the safety and quality of the San Marcos River. Hopefully the Senate and House see the potential this bill has and pass it so San Martians can continue to keep the river flowing clean.