By Kathi Bliss
For several years now, the residents of Martindale have been involved in a sometimes-bitter battle that the rest of us in the county tend to ignore. They’re waging an emotional war to protect their homes and property from the foolishness and shenanigans of intoxicated “toobers,” who, in light of the crackdown on bad behavior on the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers, have found the jewel that is the San Marcos River in Caldwell County.
You see, over the last few years, toobing outfitters have become a pretty big business on the San Marcos River, which, unlike the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers, is relatively un-regulated. The general lack of restrictions on the rural section of the San Marcos River that borders Caldwell County has made it an incredibly popular destination for folks who want to enjoy a relaxing, lazy float in cool Texas waters, with an icy-cold adult beverage here and there.
I don’t mind that. To tell the truth, floating the river with an icy cold beverage used to be one of my very favorite things to do in the summertime. I’d do it today in a blink, if I didn’t have adult things like a job and a mortgage to pay attention to.
However, something happened on Monday that makes me think that it’s time for the rest of Caldwell County to get behind the residents of Martindale and start asking for a little less lawlessness on the San Marcos River.
In the last few years, there have been more than a few reports of “missing persons” on the river. A few of those, sadly, have ended tragically. Others, on the other hand, played out like the call on Monday afternoon.
An individual called 9-1-1 because he lost track of one of his toobing companions. Apparently, after beginning their float, the woman discovered that she had left a bag on the rocks at the entry point, and swam back to retrieve it. After an hour, she hadn’t returned, and her companions began to get nervous.
Law enforcement from both Caldwell County and Guadalupe County were scrambled. Rescue teams were called in. Half an hour later, the woman was found at a camp downstream, intoxicated and waiting for her friends to finish their float down-river.
Evidently, there were several similar calls over the Fourth of July weekend.
I’m not saying that emergency services shouldn’t take “missing persons” calls on the river seriously – of course they should. However, I have to wonder how many of our already-limited resources are being wasted because people coming in to float the river are getting too intoxicated to keep track of themselves or their groups. How many taxpayer dollars are being spent because our law enforcement officers have to take responsibility for people that are behaving too irresponsibly to look out for themselves.
I don’t know what the right answer is. I respect that the outfitters are running a business and want to make a living. I understand that the San Marcos River is public water, and I know it’s a great recreation spot. As I’ve said, nothing would make me happier than grabbing a toob and a cooler, and about a half-dozen friends and going and having a relaxing day on the river. I have no desire to see Caldwell County take steps to keep that from happening.
However, I wonder if it isn’t time for the rest of us to join forces with the folks that own property on the river, to encourage Caldwell and Guadalupe Counties to take steps to make sure that it intoxicated visitors aren’t being a drain on our resources.
It’s not just a problem for the people on the river. When activities on the river start being a consistent waste of our tax dollars, it becomes a problem for us all.
And I think it’s time we start a serious conversation about how to solve that problem.