Tubing down the rivers in New Braunfels with a six-pack of beers and a group of good friends is a tradition most Texans have come to love, but as the summer comes to the end, the City of New Braunfels is considering a proposal that could easily anger tubers all around central Texas.
They want to ban beer cans on the rivers. Well, any kind of cans or disposable drink containers, but beer cans. On the Guadalupe! (And Comal!)
The New Braunfels City Council is voting tonight for the second time this month on a proposition to ban all disposable containers on either river while within city limits. If passed, this ban could result in a fine of up to $500 for anyone in possession of a disposable item, and an end to a ritual nearly as old as the river itself.
A huge crowd is expected, and the meeting has been moved to a larger location to handle it.
Although there is the argument that this proposal is a direct prohibition of alcoholic beverage consumption while on the river, City Council claims that these measures are being taken due to the large amount of litter that is disposed into the rivers each year. The Agenda Item Report states that because of the excessive littering, the city "has spent thousands of dollars and numerous man-hours in its attempts to keep the Rivers clean."
While this very well could be true, the previous restrictions placed in 2007 that limit the size of coolers admitted onto the rivers have already caused the city to station nearly 40 officers from the New Braunfels Police Department around the rivers to enforce the rules. There is no telling how many more officers will be needed in order to monitor every cooler entering the city limits, nor how much stationing these extra officers would cost the department, which is already over budget for river operations.
Mayor Gale Pospisil did not return our phone call, but city council has held fast to their claim that the ordinance is based simply on the desire to stifle littering, but with the amendments to the latest reading, that assertion is hard to believe. The revised rule limits the definition of a banned disposable container to include only objects containing food or beverages. This statement, in accordance with the previously enacted state law against open containers, makes it nearly impossible for alcoholic beverages to be brought onto the rivers.
If passed, there is worry that the ban will cause problems for local businesses who make their money from riverside attractions. An employee from Texas Tubes, a company located on the Comal River shoreline just within the city limits, tells Hair Balls the ban "will have a big effect on business."
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The company offers tube rentals with equipment that is already loaded with ice chests. The employee said "as a courtesy, we will probably try to look in these coolers more often," in attempts to limit the carrying of disposable containers onto the river.
There is no telling if the proposed ordinance will be voted to pass tonight, but one thing is certain: If passed, this could mean the end to a drunken tubing era.
Update: They did it. The ban passed city council 5-1. As KSAT reports:
Under the ordinance which will go into effect January 1, 2012, all disposable food and beverage containers including beer cans, water bottles, plastic food bags, plastic silverware and even kids' juice boxes will no longer be allowed on the waterways inside the city limits.