The wrong solution to a littering problem

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Tubing. Canoeing. Kayaking. Swimming. For decades, UT students and tourists have been drawn to the beautiful city of San Marcos for the many fun, recreational activities available on the river.

Recently, however, the San Marcos City Council has been concerned about the increase of littering along the river and the safety of its visitors. On March 20, the council voted 6-1 in favor of a new ordinance that would ban alcohol consumption in all city parks. Although the San Marcos River technically belongs to the state of Texas, the area parks are under city management, as are the entry ways to the river

The new ordinance will officially be voted on during the April 3 council meeting. The purpose of the proposed alcohol ban is to make the river cleaner and safer for tourists and wildlife. Yet would prohibiting alcohol really help the city accomplish this goal?

In addition to alcohol, the new ordinance would ban the use of styrofoam products including coolers, ice chests, cups, plates, toys and swim gear. Further, the ordinance would enforce stricter policies on container lids used by boaters and swimmers, and it would ban tobacco in city play areas and athletic fields. While these components of the ordinance are logical, the elimination of alcohol consumption does not reach the heart of the problem: the well being of the river.

If the San Marcos City Council truly wants to eliminate all potentially harmful products on the river, they would need to take into consideration water bottles, Ziploc bags, sunscreen containers and soda cans. Although the removal of all harmful products from the river area would be ideal, it is neither practical nor realistic. Rather, the council should promote and enforce anti-littering laws and fines to help solve the real problem. Similarly, if people are publically intoxicated and disruptive on the river, there are existing laws to this effect. Why punish the people who drink responsibly?

San Marcos is a city that draws tourists for recreational purposes. Although alcohol is not the reason people float the river, tourists are likely to be disappointed if they cannot casually have a beer while tubing or have some wine with a picnic dinner in a San Marcos park. Certainly, alcohol consumers are not the only citizens guilty of littering.

Tubing the river has long been a tradition of UT students, who rank the beauty of Austin and the surrounding areas as a major plus of the University experience. No one opposes the San Marcos City Council’s efforts to protect the prosperity of the river, the wildlife and the tourists. However, after all these years, it is difficult to believe that alcohol consumption is at the root of the problem.

Lapin is a journalism sophomore.