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curious 03-25-2008 05:26 AM

alcohol in the parks
OK...before I get totally flamed here, please understand two things:
(1) I am not a teetotaler, and have no problem with responsible drinking, or parties, or even (gasp!) nakedness : )
(2) I'm a relative newcomer to San Marcos, we arrived last summer. But I have lived all over the US (including several midsize college towns), so I think I do bring a legitimate perspective to this question. My goal is to understand the LOCAL perspective....on the drinking in the River Parks.

My observation is this: It is out of hand, unattractive, and frankly intimidating. I favor an alcohol ban if behavior can't be 'policed' (poor choice of words, sorry) adequately. My question: am I all alone???

Last summer, as a newcomer, everyone kept telling me how the river and these parks are the jewel of the San Marcos experience. So, wanting to learn about my new home and beat the heat, I went down to City Park with my preschooler, during the afternoon. What a mistake! By the end of an hour, I went home in disgust and in tears. Why? Trash and garbage everywhere - yep, lots of it beer cans. More disturbing, drunken people whooping it up or (even worse) approaching my kid to make conversation. My kid has been around drinking - what I don't want him (or me) exposed to is public drunkenness. One friend of mine even had to roust a drunk out of the kids' slide at City Park! It was an incredibly unpleasant experience.

This happened not once, but 3 days last year....I got to the point where I didn't even consider the River a place to hang out. This winter in the 'off season' I finally began to appreciate it. But the tubing season is fast approaching, and I am dreading it again.

Just for the record, I've never felt uncomfortable in Landa Park, even on the most crowded days, but surprise surprise - there is a "no alcohol" policy there.

I spoke to a person at the SM parks department yesterday. She says their hands are tied, that any attempt to regulate alcohol use is strongly opposed by 'the public'. She suggests that I call the police if I'm uncomfortable - but c'mon, no laws were being broken, so I'm not stupid enough to believe that would effect any change. And she said I need to write the Mayor. Will the mayor care? Is it true that there was a huge public outcry against these sorts of regs?

She also mentioned that recently New Braunfels enacted a no alcohol policy in their parks so 'those people are coming up here'. Um. what did you expect??

OK. I am upset about this because I've never lived in any town where this kind of behaviour was tolerated in the middle of a town park. It makes San Marcos look REALLY bad to outsiders...
Also, I pay taxes - lots of them - so don't I get a say? I can't believe that I'm the only one who sees this as a problem. Maybe last summer was an
anomaly, I hope so.

Can anyone give me some perspective here? Thanks!

semi-native 03-25-2008 07:53 AM

I've seen my share of garbage all over town and it definitely needs to be addressed. Ditto the public intoxication and drunk driving.

That being said, I've never really seen it in the parks, other than 5-mile dam. It may be that I don't go to the same parks at the same times. I've seen big crowds in City Park, for sure, but I have no idea what they are doing, as I tend to find the quiet spots.

There is a lot of concern with the mayor and city council about San Marcos not growing as fast as the towns around us. As someone new to town, if these are issues that make you rethink your decision to come here, I am sure they all want to know. You can email them and/or speak during the public comments period of the next council meeting. I've found that a combination of the two works well. If you can get some other parents to do the same, all the better.

There are laws against public intoxication and littering, so there is plenty for the police to do, if things are as you describe.

eljefe 03-25-2008 08:21 AM

I'm a relative newcomer as well, but I'll give you my perspective. I've lived in SM for a little under two years, but central Texas for almost a decade. I don't know whether I'd consider it a problem. I haven't thought things were that bad, but I try to go during the week and I avoid all the local rivers on holiday weekends, when I know things are going to be crowded and the drunks are going to be out. It's certainly not as bad as the Guadalupe. I think it's unfortunate that more people don't learn how to behave with alcohol in public, but this is not a problem unique to this place or time.

My understanding is that one of the politicians in Comal/NB either did or nearly did get recalled because of trying to ban alcohol on the Guadalupe. While there may not be a ban on alcohol in the San Marcos parks, there are laws about being drunk in public. Technically you are supposed to be a student to use Sewel Park, and there is an alcohol ban there (It's o.k. to have alcohol in the river, but as soon as you touch the shore on school property it can't be open) but I'm pretty sure the Frisbee man isn't a student. So, I don't think that rule is enforced much. There's also 5-Mile Dam and the Blanco, which aren't used anywhere near as much, and the Blanco is a nice and isolated float when the flow is still up a little in the spring/early summer (It gets a little stagnant by mid summer).

Hope that helps. Welcome to the area.

brete 03-25-2008 11:18 AM

and the fourth thing to consider is that Texas Cities beyond the all dry/wet decision, have very little power to regulate alcohol. They may limit it's use only in the ways that Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code allows. The New Braunfels ban will probably be tossed by the Courts. The is a standing AG and several court opinions that Texas Cities do not have the power to regulate alcohol use in public parks. That was why the proposed ban here went down a few years ago.

curious 03-25-2008 03:28 PM


Thanks for the replies. Trying to get a handle on Texas is a little like moving to a foreign country! ; ) Very curious politics....

I'll try the alternate spots, and hope I just had bad luck last summer.

BTW, who is the Frisbee Man?

Happy Spring!!

semi-native 03-25-2008 03:42 PM

I want to say that he is "Frisbee Dan", but I could be wrong. He's the older guy who is in Sewell Park, by the intersection of Aquarena Springs and Sessom, playing frisbee, all day, every day, it seems.

He has been around for awhile, replacing Grasshopper as the most recognizable San Marcos character. Grasshopper was a bald guy who used to ride all around town on a funky green bike (with a squirrel on his shoulder for awhile, I seem to recall).

Of course, the dancing guy (Dancing Dan? Why do I think one of these guys is named Dan?) by the pawn shop on Aquarena is quickly gaining momentum.

All of them are better than Leslie, IMO.

Who says there's no diversity in San Marcos?

Vader 03-28-2008 10:13 AM

I've only heard him called Frisbee Dan, so Dan is probably his name. I don't think the 'student only' rule is enforced. I think it's just there to help keep non-students from trashing the place. And I don't think many people who aren't associated with the school really want to head out there.

I'm not sure what the dancing guy's name is, but he's currently dancing for Great Locations. I know I've seen him dance for various businesses in the area. I first saw him dancing for Little Ceaser's out by Wal-Mart. He's also danced for Liberty Tax on Hopkins/Thorpe.

I've lived here just under two years and have really enjoyed tubing. I haven't come across too much in the way of 'public intoxication,' but I have smelled a little MJ while tubing. But then again, we tend to tube during the 'off-peak' hours. Personally, I'd rather stay away from the parks on the weekends. It's a bit crowded and things can get a little hectic. I have noticed that even though there is a diverse crowd at the park, usually everyone is very polite and considerate of others.

As for the drinking problem, I'd say you'd probably be best to avoid it during the peak hours if you don't feel safe. Not that you should have to, but I've found that some of the best times to hit the river is when it's fairly empty.

swisher 03-28-2008 12:47 PM

It's Frisbee Dan and Dancing Todd. Both really good guys who love what they do. Dan is a landscaper with his own company and Todd makes a good living dancing and travels to California often to visit family. Both were former Tangram Injury Rehabilitation clients years ago. Two members of San Marcos that make this place cool. Both have had in depth newspaper stories done on them.

txvoodoo 04-21-2008 12:33 PM

Police it but don't ban it.
I don't take my kids to any of the San Marcos river parks anymore because of the cursing and crude behaviour. If we can't outlaw open containers maybe we could do some signs that say no cursing. The whole notion of the river being "the jewel of the city" is a joke. It's nothing but drunk losers. Plus, the new falls is too aggressive for my little kids. I wish they would do something more gentle around Lions Club. Texas Guard is moving so they could do more parking or facilities.

DanMartian 05-31-2008 10:54 AM

Anyone else have any ideas?
The fact that half of the posters here have to avoid the river because of bad behavior tells me that this is a problem. I?ve seen the same people at the parks day after day drinking to excess. The cops do try to police the area, but it isn?t enough, especially on the weekends.

My guess is that many of us chose to live here in large part due to the wonderful quality of life the river affords us. Unfortunately, it seems that more of us have to avoid the place on the weekends. It used to bother me less, but in the past couple of years I?ve spent less time at the river on the weekends and have found other things to do. The parks have gotten so crowded that they aren?t as enjoyable, and when you add garbage, soiled diapers, portable stereos, picnic debris, beer cans, clueless tourists and, yes, drunks, the parks become less and less attractive.

Memorial day weekend, the traffic on the river was so bad that the water was gray and turbid. Garbage was everywhere and the cans were overflowing. We had another almost-drowning. The weekend before, my dog was attacked by a tourist?s pit bull not on its leash. Like several other posters, I?ve considered not going to the parks on the weekends, which is bull****.

I?m fully aware of the problems associated with banning alcohol in the parks and have not supported such a ban, but in the last few weeks, I?ve recognized that something needs to be done about it. Perhaps the troublemakers should have to perform community service and clean our parks every weekend. Maybe a ban on alcohol and coolers will help. Perhaps the business that profit from tourism need to do more to keep the parks clean and enjoyable. Perhaps the City Council should levy a tax on tubes, floats and the businesses that supply them. Maybe they should stop promoting tourism as a clean industry and recognize that it simply isn?t. I just don?t know anymore?

Anyone else have any ideas?

brete 06-03-2008 09:20 AM

The fact 75% of the posters on here are chronicle complainers, means half is pretty good. I take my 7 y.o. down to the river all the time. Mostly at Rio Vista. It's usually a good mix of local families, tourist and college kids. I'm either missing a lot of what ya'll are complaining or have been very lucky. There's not nearly the number of loud drunks as there was 10-20 years ago. I avoid the river from City Park to Rio Vista all the three big summer holiday weekends. I also avoid Sixth Street in Austin on Halloween and bars on New Years' Eve. But I think that's just common sense.

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