Tubers return to Comal River for Labor Day weekend

First summer without 'can ban' sees bigger crowds and more litter in water

By Tim Gerber - Reporter/Anchor

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas - The final summer holiday saw tubers flocking to the Comal River in New Braunfels to get in one last float this season.

River outfitters said it's been a good summer for them after the city's can ban was repealed by a judge and deemed unconstitutional.

The crowds returned this summer but so did some of the trash issues.

Daniel Ruiz and his San Antonio friends spent the last day of the Labor Day holiday weekend on the Comal river.

"We're just having a good time for Labor Day, hanging out with some friends having a good time," Ruiz said. "You still see trash every now and then but for the most part, I think it's cleaned up."

Ruiz and other tubers were joined by a team of volunteers looking for trash on the river Monday afternoon.

About 50 people joined in the clean up effort organized by river outfitters and the city. They've done the same thing after every holiday this summer.

"It's a win-win all across the board," said Shane Wolf, a local river outfitter. "Just an opportunity for family and friends to get out, educate the children, cleaning up a little bit."

Wolf joined other river outfitters in fighting the city over it's can ban.

Put in place in 2012, the restrictive rule drastically reduced trash in the river and in the process drove away a lot of tourists.

This summer the ban was repealed and the numbers went back up, with a 400 percent increase in trash collected over the Fourth of July weekend alone.

Even so, Wolf said things are still better than before the ban.

"The trash numbers are down considerably compared to 2011 when there wasn't a can ban," Wolf said.

Wolf believes removing the ban removed some of the confusion for tourists on what they can and can't bring on the water but he said it also got them thinking about what they can do to keep the river clean.

"It's education, people want to do the right thing, or at least most of them do, so that's been a simple thing to put in place and it's going well," Wolf said.

Sarah Firoozi said the can ban kept her away but now she's back and she's ready to do her part to keep the river trash free.

"I think everybody wants to keep the river clean," Firoozi said. "I think it's more of the other trash, food, cigarette butts and stuff like that. That's really the problem not really the cans so much."

The city of New Braunfels is appealing the decision by the judge to repeal the can ban.

Even as that makes it's way through the court system, outfitters like Shane Wolf say they have had a much better time working with the city to keep the river clean this summer.

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