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The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

San Marcos bans alcohol in city parks, along river

UT students heading to the San Marcos River may have to leave beer and other alcoholic beverages out of their coolers if San Marcos city officials pass a proposal banning alcohol in public parks.

The San Marcos City Council granted preliminary approval for an ordinance proposal that would ban the public display and consumption of alcohol in city parks on Tuesday. If implemented, the ban would include parks that line the San Marcos River, a prominent tubing tourist attraction.

San Marcos spokeswoman Melissa Millecam said the river’s well-being is the city’s primary concern despite the river’s growing popularity and increased attraction of visitors.

While the city does not have any jurisdiction over the actual river, the ordinance will prohibit alcohol consumption along the multiple city-owned parks that serve as popular recreational areas and entry points to the river. The river is lined by Texas State University-owned parks as well, where alcohol consumption is also prohibited.

The ordinance would also ban Styrofoam-type products including ice coolers, and require the securing of lids and covers on containers in parks and in the river. The council voted 6-1 during the first reading of the ordinance.

UT RecSports coordinates regular student trips to the San Marcos River as part of their Outdoor Recreation Program. Chris Burnett, outdoor recreation coordinator, travels with students to San Marcos two or three times a semester and said litter is more problematic than dealing with inebriated individuals.

“The drunk people you can paddle away from,” Burnett said. “It’s the trash that causes problems.”

Kim Porterfield, San Marcos City Council member, said she was saddened by the need to implement the ordinance, but concerns regarding river safety outweighed her doubts.

“The issue is not having a beer at the river,” she said. “It is the people that abuse and [engage in] behaviors that make our river unsafe and unfriendly.”

Porterfield said she hopes the ordinance will not have adverse effects on tourism and it will instead promote better behavior to benefit both visitors and the river.

“No one likes to be around drunk individuals,” Porterfield said. “The ordinance will benefit families and visitors, including young students, that just want to have fun and not be exposed to untoward behavior.”

Jude Prather, San Marcos City Council member, voted against the proposal, and said it originated from an effort to make the river a safer environment.

“I am baffled as to how we got to this point,” he said. “Last September, we were focusing on litter and doubling fines to reduce them, but we somehow got to this streamlined law.”

Prather said the ordinance might end up promoting illegal activity. Individuals will continue to drink alcohol even if they have to hide it, he said.

“There is nothing more normal than going to the park and drinking a beer while cooking some barbecue,” Prather said. “That’s what parks are for.”

The council will reconvene April 3 to vote on final approval of the ordinance. Porterfield said the council is considering an amendment to the ordinance that would require an evaluation of the regulations after a trial run this summer.

New Braunfels passed a similar ordinance last year banning disposable containers on the rivers within their city limits. While many river outfitters in New Braunfels are suing the city because of the law, multiple businesses in the San Marcos area support of the ban.

During the council meeting, a representative for the San Marcos Lions Club, where tubers can rent equipment, said the group hoped it would pass.

Duane Te Grotenhuis, owner of TG Canoes & Kayaks, said alcohol negatively impacts the river experience and he is in favor of the ban.

“Everything goes south when alcohol is involved,” he said. “I’ve been in business for 27 years, and never has the river’s culture been affected by litter or concentrated on alcohol consumption until now.”

Printed on Friday, March 23, 2012 as: San Marcos bans alcohol in city parks

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San Marcos bans alcohol in city parks, along river