In honor of the first Waterways dedicated month this March and to encourage every affiliate and community to hold an event, Keep San Marcos Beautiful would like to focus on our efforts to keep the San Marcos River clean year-round.
Located near downtown, the crystal clear and constant 72° temperature of the San Marcos River connects the residents of San Marcos. Whether people swim, paddleboard, kayak, or tube, the community wants to do what it can to protect the river. For 35 years, the Great Texas River Clean Up has been coordinated to clean the entire 90-miles of the San Marcos River (SMR). For many years, the upper portion of the SMR was organized by a local dive group that partnered with City Parks staff. They focused cleanup efforts in the water and along the banks. Simultaneously, the lower SMR portion, was cleaned by the Texas River Protection Association, using canoes and kayaks all the way to the Guadalupe River.
About six years ago, many departments within the City of San Marcos, Keep San Marcos Beautiful, and Texas State University broadened the scope of the upper portion of the Great Texas River Clean Up. We looked at all the subwatersheds that make up the San Marcos River watershed. This includes all the creeks, tributaries, downtown streets, and major drainage ditches. We used this as an opportunity to educate our volunteers how everything flows to the river and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. At this event we get between 750 to over 1,000 volunteers. Most of the volunteers are Texas State University students. In March 2019, we collected litter in the upper portion: 31,377 pounds of trash; 10,480 pounds of recycling; 31 passenger tires and 7 truck tires. The lower portion collected: 40 cubic yards of trash, 20 cubic yards of recycling, 30 passenger tires and 2 tractor tires.
Realizing this one big cleanup wasn’t enough to keep the river litter-free, five years ago, Keep San Marcos Beautiful (KSMB) and the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) started the Hot Spot Clean Up. This is a once a month litter clean up focusing on an area of town in desperate need of attention. These areas are generally, river parks, creeks and drainage ditches. Since our volunteer pool is smaller for these events, the smaller scope is perfect. Some of the creeks and ditches were always on our list to clean. Analyzing the litter being picked up, we noticed it was stormwater runoff that carried the litter to these Hot Spot locations. Thus began our Hot Spot Street Sweep, taking it to the neighborhoods. At the Street Sweep, we pick up litter in the neighborhood streets and right of ways. We also walk flyers door-to-door explaining the Street Sweep was in their neighborhood and to help keep their roads and our river litter-free.
Recently we added a Fall River Clean Up. Residents were contacting us in the fall to volunteer, and after the tubing season, it seemed like a good event to add. This event takes place the first Saturday in October and is set up the same way as the upper San Marcos River portion of the Great Texas River Clean Up. In 2019, our nearly 500 volunteers collected: 13,100 pounds of trash; 4,030 pounds of recycling, 21 passenger tires and 30 pounds of cathode ray tube monitors.
Finally, I would like to touch on our Leave No Trace (LNT) Intern program. During the tubing season, San Marcos receives a lot of out of town visitors. Once again, KSMB and the HCP partnered to place interns in the river parks to interact with the visitors. The LNT Interns explain park rules, hand out bags for trash, pick up litter, and play educational games with people at two main river parks every Friday to Sunday, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
There are other pop-up litter clean up events KSMB holds, but the ones listed happen every year. The youth in our community value the purity of the San Marcos River and work diligently to keep the river flowing clean with Keep San Marcos Beautiful.
Blog Post Written By Amy Kirwin, M.S. CPM, Community Enhancement Initiatives Manager.