New river rules
Voters opt to "ban the can" on New Braunfels rivers; beer stays, but disposablecontainers must go
Trade in the six-pack for a pony keg and some creativity, and you can still bring your party on the Comal River—even after a much-ballyhooed ban on disposable containers was overwhelmingly approved by New Braunfels voters on Tuesday.
“You can still bring your beer. There all kinds of Thermoses and water bottles and kegs with deposits that are meant to be used more than once,” said Mayor Gale Pospisil, who proposed the controversial ban earlier this summer. “They are all perfectly OK, and what you bring it in it is totally up to you.”
That may be the single most important thing to know about the container ban, which passed with 58 percent of the vote and goes effect on January 1st.
The ban covers both the Comal, all two miles of which are in the city limits, and the part of the Guadalupe River that touches New Braunfels.
The ordinance threatens a fine up to $500 for violators and covers any disposable food or beverage container—chip bags and ice cream containers included.
Some fear the ban will kill river business the city’s hospitality industry, which brings some $459.6 million into the local economy, according to a 2009 study.
The ordinance was initially passed by the city council in late August to avert an estimated 300,000 gallons of litter found in the Comal and Guadalupe Rivers every year.
Fresh off a record summer of floaters on the Comal, the ordinance met with heavy resistance by some rafting companies and shop owners who gathered the signatures needed to put the question to voters.
The ensuing fight was protracted and nasty, including a lawsuit on the legality of the ordinance and accusations of sign-stealing.
Proponents of the "Ban the Can" effort said it was needed to protect the river, including four endangered species that rely on the Comal.
Opponents argued that crews already clean up the river, and that tubers could risk breaking the state’s open-container laws. The new ordinance amounts to a ban on alcohol, they argue, even if the mayor is technically accurate in her reassurances.
"Every summer, it is something new,” opponent Emily Coleman told KXAN Austin News, referring to past efforts by the city to ban alcohol altogether (the state wouldn’t allow that) and restrict the size and number of coolers on the river. “This time, they have gone too far.”