Enforcement increases to match river traffic

Enforcement increases to match river traffic

By Kathi Bliss
Editor/POST-REGISTER

At the halfway point of the summer tubing season, the San Marcos River remains a prime concern for Caldwell County officials and residents.
“The crowds are increasing this year to a level that we haven’t seen before,” Emergency Management Coordinator Martin Ritchey said on Wednesday morning. “But with the increased law enforcement presence and the ambulance on site, I think that has eased the strain on our resources – for now.”
The increased presence is the result of a Memorandum of Understanding that Caldwell County entered with two outfitters, Don’s Fish Camp and Texas State Tubes earlier this year. Under that agreement, the outfitters partner to reimburse Caldwell County for increased law enforcement presence, and contract with an ambulance to be on scene during the busiest periods.
“That ambulance has made the biggest difference for our resources,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner Ed Theriot, who represents the property owners bordering the controversial stretch of the river. “Often, Caldwell County only has two or three ambulances for the whole county, and if something happens out there, that leaves us shorthanded to serve the rest of our citizens. [The outfitters] make arrangements and pay to have the ambulance and qualified crew out there, and that has really reduced our EMS presence out there.”
Theriot also gave high praise to the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department and the Caldwell County Constables, who have been providing manpower to patrol the river during peak times.
“They have been doing a great job, and they are really making a difference out there,” Theriot said. “They deserve our appreciation, because they are out there working, and always trying to think of ways to make it safer for everyone.”
Under the agreement, those officers are on duty with their respective departments, and the outfitters are responsible for reimbursing the County monthly for their time. Thus far, Theriot said, the outfitters have been living up to their end of the bargain.
And while the river is safer so far this summer, Ritchey said, there is still a long way to go.
“The Sheriff’s Office and the Constables have done an excellent job,” he said. “With the marked increase in resources, things can’t help but improve. But still, we’re dealing with larger crowds than we have in the past, and with that comes large numbers of young people who are intoxicated, or doing drugs, or doing other things that aren’t appropriate.”
Over the weekend, volunteers from Maxwell, Martindale, Luling and Mid-County Volunteer Fire Departments responded to several calls on the river, including two “missing persons,” and one CPR-in-progress call.
“The CPR call was for a patient that didn’t actually need CPR,” Ritchey said. “And while that was happening, the ambulance was off-site running another call, so we had to send our EMS and volunteers out there. So while it was a great outcome for the patient, it was still a use of our resources, and that’s something that we have to keep considering.”
As for the “missing persons” calls, they were, as similar calls so often are, simply matters of friends becoming separated during the two-hour float, only to be found safe later.
“It is getting better,” Ritchey said, noting he has been told the outfitters are taking additional steps to prevent overindulgence and under-age drinking. “But then, when I say ‘better,’ that also means we’ve gone from a situation that was complete chaos to a scene that’s less chaotic, but still has its problems.”
kathibliss@post-register.com

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