Report on the San Marcos River Task Force

II. Origin of the San Marcos River Task Force (SMRTF)

The recent surge in tubing has been noticed by riverside landowners, local law enforcement officials, and others. Data collected in 2014 by the San Marcos River Foundation counted tubers on three days (in the river segment in question, identified as the "Lower" location on the chart at Tab 4, River Recreational Study Count) on two Saturdays and one Sunday. The average number of inflatable tubes over those three days in this section was 3922. In 2015, recreational counts were done on thirteen days, eleven Saturdays and the Sunday and Monday of Labor Day weekend. The total number of tubers counted averaged 4615 per day. In 2016, counts were made on thirteen Saturdays, and the average on those days was 4983 per day. The highest number of tubers reported on any day was 10,192 on July 16, 2016, coinciding with the “Float Fest” music event at Cool River Ranch.

A recent USA Today article ranked the San Marcos River as second-best in the nation for tubing, even ahead of the Guadalupe River (Tab 5, USA Today). The Huffington Post listed the San Marcos River among sixteen sites nationwide that are known for tubing and drinking (Tab 6, Huffington Post). While recreationists tube all summer long, peak tubing occurs on weekends, days on or adjacent to holidays, and during Float Fest.

Each August, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (Commission) holds an Annual Public Hearing at which individuals are given the opportunity to speak to the Commission on any topic within the jurisdiction of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. During Texas Parks and Wildlife Annual Public Hearings in August 2014 and 2015, the Commission heard statements from landowners and other interested parties along the San Marcos River who reported issues with litter, trespass, public lewdness, intoxication, noise, crowding, and other undesirable behaviors occurring by recreationists, specifically tubers, along the San Marcos River (Tab 7, 2014 TPW Public Hearing Testimony; Tab 8 2014 Public Hearing - PowerPoint Testimony; and Tab 9, 2015 TPW Public Hearing Testimony). In response, the Commission in August 2015 directed the TPWD Executive Director to form a task force to investigate this issue. The San Marcos River Task Force (SMRTF) eventually included 38 members, among whom were riverside landowners, tubing companies, local elected officials, river recreation enthusiasts, law enforcement representatives, and other stakeholders (Tab 10, Task Force Members and Letter of Welcome). Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner Bill Jones agreed to chair the SMRTF, which received the following charge:

To bring together a broad spectrum of stakeholders to provide perspective to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Commission regarding the issues associated with recreational river use on the San Marcos River from the bridge at County Road 101 to Scull Crossing. This 3.6-mile river segment flows through Hays, Caldwell, and Guadalupe Counties. Specifically, the task force is charged with studying and making recommendations concerning how to control illegal behavior, improve public safety, safeguard private property rights, and conserve environmental quality and the natural state in this segment of the San Marcos River.