Making tourists pay a fee to enjoy a natural resource is a ridiculous, unrealistic proposal that does more harm than good to the community.
Melissa Derrick, Place 6 city council candidate, proposed that San Marcos officials pass an ordinance to require non-residents to pay a $10 fee to enjoy the river. The main problem with the plan is the absence of a unified San Marcos identification or database. Therefore, there is no way to guarantee residents and non-residents will be accurately differentiated.
Not only would it be difficult to tell whether or not someone is a resident of San Marcos, but the exact criteria to be considered a local was not outlined in the proposal.
Do incoming Texas State freshmen automatically receive a sticker indicating they are now residents, or do people have to be a resident for a specific amount of time before becoming eligible to use the San Marcos River without a fee? There are a multitude of questions and concerns, yet, sadly, not enough reasonable answers.
One of the more notable ideas behind the San Marcos River fee was Derrick’s assertion that, “We need to attract the right kind of people than just a free-for-all.” Derrick clarified her statement to mean exactly what everyone thought it did. Derrick asserted the $10 fee will attract only those able to pay the fee, implying the purpose of the plan is to detract lower-income non-residents from using the San Marcos River.
Being exclusionary with the natural resources of the community is not the way to garner support. Instead, the proposal will target people who are only seeking to have fun. A proposal that seeks to make those without the proper funds feel inadequate is a poor stance to stand on.
Putting funds towards the river is definitely a good idea. However, charging only selected families and groups of people who want to experience the beauty of San Marcos reeks of exploitation. Investing in trashcans and river clean up is an important step to preserving the natural beauty and ecologically essential waterway, but there are more effective ways to garner funds than discrimination.
If everyone cares about the river as much as they proclaim, then having a minimum fee for all visitors, instead of tourists, would be more cost-effective. A $2 fee for all would-be river visitors is a more economically sound and equitable stance compared to charging non-community members $10, as denoted by stickers which will cost money to produce and distribute.
Another hole in the fee plan rests on the dysfunctional use of stickers, which are made of paper, on a river. Not only are residents unlikely to haul stickers around, but once sticker meets water there is little left to behold—this a disaster waiting to happen.
These resident stickers are vulnerable to destruction, displacement and theft. Without the stickers denoting residents from non-residents, the entire plan topples over. If the idea is to increase revenue, then wasting money on the creation and distribution of stickers is not the way to go.
The river is a natural resource and should be enjoyed by all who wish to use it. Implementing a plan to discriminate against non-residents is not an economical or effective strategy. It only seeks to increase conflict and decrease enjoyment, which come together to equal utter disaster.