Rollin’ on the River - Conservation Crew patrols San Marcos River to keep it clean
EAHCP Steward - July-August 2018 - www.EAHCPSteward.org
There are some high-level research and pollution prevention measures being implemented at the San Marcos Springs and San Marcos River as part of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat
Conservation Plan (EAHCP). At the same time, a group of mostly Texas State students are
employing some never out of fashion elbow grease each day to protect those environmental
treasures. For eight hours a day, five days a week, the Conservation Crew walks the river
banks and kayaks the spring-fed waterway picking up trash, monitoring changes in the river
and talking to visitors from all over the state about the importance of keeping the San Marcos
River clean and healthy for its endangered species.
“We developed the concept of a Conservation Crew in 2013 to help implement our responsibilities under the EAHCP,” said the Crew’s Manager Eric Weeks. “Each day, we’ll have four to six Crew members head out in teams along the river to help keep it free of debris and most importantly to connect with as many visitors as possible in explaining the uniqueness of the San Marcos River and the endangered species living there. That gives tubers a good understanding of why certain park rules exist and a better appreciation for how they can help preserve the river while enjoying it at the same time.”
As expected, the summer season brings the most visitors to the river and consequently the
most trash as well. To combat the potential for additional debris finding its way into the river,
the Conservation Crew, in partnership with Keep San Marcos Beautiful, City of San Marcos and EAHCP, has set up three litter boats and two information stations at the places of heaviest traffic. The litter boats are chained to pillars and float in the middle of the river for tubers to use as they drift by. Cleaning out the boats is more efficient than collecting cans from the bottom of the river. As for winning the minds and hearts of visitors regarding litter prevention, Weeks explained they constantly engage visitors about the harm littering does to the protected habitat in the San Marcos River.
Because recreation has continued to increase at the river over the past few years, the City of
San Marcos has made some other changes to park rules. They have banned or limited the use of charcoal grills, pop-up tents and tables and other recreational items as a means of keeping visitors a little further from the river as well as minimizing trash that’s part of those types of gatherings.
“We do work well with the park rangers who can fine people for littering and or using
styrofoam, glass and alcohol in the park,” Weeks mentioned. “For the most part, the public is
receptive to our information and cautions about littering. From time to time though, the team
will run into an unruly person or two and we turn those folks over to the park rangers.” Weeks explained that the Conservation Crew members are trained to look for changes in the river that might indicate an unidentified source of pollution. Cell phone cameras are used to document those issues and reports are filled out at the end of the day to ensure that problems can be effectively addressed by the EAHCP staff.
While trash duty is an essential element of the job, Weeks noted they have not had to worry
much about having enough team members. He said they look for students who have a passion for the river, who are not shy and eager to learn.
“We really don’t have to do too much advertising to get people to apply. Word of mouth seems to get the job done for us. Being on the Conservation Crew is a great job and so lots of students want to be a part of it. While some of the members are paid by Texas State, others are earning college credits required for their majors with this work. And fortunately, some people just volunteer for free just because they love the river.”
Editor’s Note - For the story, we canoed the river with Conservation Crew members Lane
Malone, Nina Garcia and Rachel McCaig. Malone has been on the Crew for three years and is pursuing degrees computer science and English. Garcia became a Crew member this summer and is studying water resources. McCaig is also spending her first summer as a CC leader and is a natural resources and environmental studies student. Please take a few minutes to listen to the interview we did with these hard-working students. You’ll be glad you did.