Recent rains causing big mess at Espada Park as trash builds along San Antonio River

San Antonio River Authority raising awareness about litter, trash after heavy rain left mess

SAN ANTONIO – A KSAT viewer recently shared images of piles of trash along the San Antonio River at Espada Park after recent heavy rains across the area. Officials with the San Antonio River Authority said trash and litter buildup is an ongoing issue at many waterways, especially near Espada Dam.

“Unfortunately after these rain events, we’re still in a highly urbanized area, this is where we’re going to really see a lot of this,” said SARA Watershed and Parks Operations Manager Tommy Mitchell. “A lot of this trash is really just sitting in the storm drains, and then once we receive that rain, it just flushes it out.”

Mitchell said water at the crossing at Espada Dam can rise anywhere from eight to ten feet during heavy rainfall, meaning anything from old mattresses to blankets and rugs will get stuck along the tree line.

“We have a lot of folks who utilize this area, do a lot of recreating here, fishing, hiking, things like that. And we get a lot of responses saying ‘I had no idea, I didn’t realize this is where all that trash is going,’” Mitchell said. “I think just awareness of that, being really mindful as far as your trash and how you manage your trash, would help a lot.”

Mitchell said along with heavier items becoming stuck and damaging trees and branches, the items cleanup crews see the most are plastic bags and Styrofoam cups.

With more rainy days ahead, the River Authority is asking people to be mindful of littering and not taking trash bins out earlier than their pickup date because chances are once it blows away or gets on the street, it will end up at Espada Park and other areas down the river.

“Once it hits that street straight and is swept off, it goes in those storm drains and unfortunately the San Antonio River and some of our main tributaries that come into the river,” Mitchell said. “Last year we had about 100,000 pounds of loose litter that was removed from this area. If we start to see more and more rains, we easily get into those numbers or more that will be collected this year, unfortunately.”

SARA launched a public awareness campaign “Don’t Let Litter Trash Your River” to combat the trash they see after rain.

“Just to make folks aware of where the trash ends up, being mindful of trash and how you dispose of it and try to dispose of it properly. I would really love folks just to take the message that this is your river, you own it. You play a big role in the river, in the health and the condition of the river,” Mitchell said. “The River Authority is highly concerned and visibly aware of the water quality here. We want to protect this ecosystem.”

About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.