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Council moves plan for single-use container ban forward

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Litter is a major problem in the river. One of the biggest culprits is empty cans. Any river rat can tell you that you will likely find at least two to three of them if you spend an hour wading in only one location — move around and the number will increase exponentially. With that in mind, and after much consideration of a single- use beverage container ordinance that includes stipulations on cooler size, and public comments in support of the idea, the San Marcos City Council voted six to zero with one absent in support of the proposed ordinance on the first of two readings. The ordinance uses 'go' and 'no go' zones in certain parks to allow for the use of single-use containers in sections of the park while keeping them out of the river. In the previous meeting in which it was on the agenda on Jan. 16, council provided direction to staff as to what the specifics of the ordinance would entail.

San Marcos Parks and Recreation Director Jamie Lee Case said the cooler size limitation would be 30 quarts per person in the waterway, but no limitation in the riverfront parks. As far as the single- use container ban, she said it will only apply to single-use beverage containers, not other types of containers.

“Only reusable containers would be allowed in the public waterway of the San Marcos River and within designated no-zones, which would be along the river,” Case said. “During that first year, we would only be providing education to patrons. There would not be any citations issued for violations.” Case said the ordinance would go into effect on May 1 of this year.

“The no-zones, as I have dubbed them, will be clearly defined with signage, and the go-zones will not be restricted at all — regular access and activity would be able to continue without restriction,” Case said, adding that go-zones would be Rio Vista Park, Children's Park, Plaza Park, City Park and Ramon Lucio Park but not Crook Park (Girl Scout for most locals) that is directly adjacent to Ramon Lucio due to the environmental sensitivity. “These go-zones are typically our picnic areas [that] are highly used by our visitors and residents. The activity there would be unregulated as far as they would still be allowed to have single-use beverage containers. The no-zones will primarily be along the banks of the river.”

San Marcos City Council Member Matthew Mendoza said that he was happy about the go-zones.

“A family of four in this city makes an average of $40,000. These parks are very important for us to be able to enjoy them, especially for birthday parties and things like that,” Mendoza said. “We need to understand that this is not just for the river but for our citizens — the people that pay taxes and deserve to appreciate every part of this [city].”

Case said the next steps will be for the council to adopt the ordinance on the second reading. Staff will finish developing a communications and marketing plan, and then the cost of the plan will need to be approved by council via a vote and should cost approximately $100,000 — $50,000 from the general fund and $50,000 from the Hotel Occupancy Tax fund.

San Marcos City Council Member Jude Prather said he liked the similarities between this ordinance and other similar ordinances in Central Texas and felt that would help with compliance.

“I think what we have in front of us is a good ordinance,” Prather said. “I think it will increase public safety, and it will leave behind a legacy of a cleaner community in San Marcos.”

Case said the council requested a personnel cost comparison because enforcement would likely require additional staff. Park Ambassadors are responsible for patron engagement and education, work seasonal full-time and cost $8,406 per year per hire. Deputy Marshals are licensed peace officers, work permanent full-time, and cost $126,947 per year per hire. Park Rangers are licensed emergency medical technicians, work part time and cost $61,237 per year per hire.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666