Some visitors may soon have to pay to play at the San Marcos River

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Advisory board votes to start researching visitor parking fees

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN)– If you don’t live in San Marcos, you may have to start paying a new fee before using their river.

San Marcos’ Parks and Recreation board says it wants to charge out-of-towners to park.

The committee voted this week to start researching the idea.

Some people are already concerned.

“Personally this river is sacred to me,” says resident Nathan Price.

Price visits the San Marcos River nearly every day.

“I was on multiple different pain medications that the V.A. had me on and I quit them cold turkey by coming and swimming in this river every day,” he says.

Now, the veteran fears a move by the city may limit access to those waters.

“During the weekends, San Marcos residents aren’t the ones going to the parks, for the most part, by and large. So there’s out-of-town folks parking for free, utilizing our park land,” says Joshua Simpson, a member of San Marcos’ Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board recommends phasing into a parking fee, like starting enforcement at a specific park or on specific days, first. (KXAN/Tahera Rahman)

He and other members want to make those visitors pay to park before they float.

Simpson says they hope to get something passed before the summer rush but the resolution is still in its planning stages.

“They can’t go to any other river and not pay, so the free ride’s over, basically, for the out-of-towners. In-town folks, you already pay. You will not pay more,” Simpson stresses.

Price says there are other ways to bring more cash flow into the city.

“How about we start with fining the people who are littering? We could just enforce the laws that are already in place,” Price says.

Simpson says that won’t be enough.

“This is like the fastest-growing area in the whole country. So we’ve got to take the bull by the horns now. Or else, in a few years, people are going to be yelling and screaming about how there’s no parking access and the parks are becoming more dilapidated because there’s no funds to keep them up,” Simpson says.

A spokesperson for the city says the next step is for either the mayor or two San Marcos City Council members to put this resolution on a future agenda for discussion.

The spokesperson says there is no guarantee that will happen.

Other concerns

Advisory board members want to make sure San Marcos residents can apply for a free river pass for their families.

Price says it’s a government overreach that can be a slippery slope.

“They say residents don’t pay and it sounds like a good plan and all but how long does that last? Two years? Three years? And then residents start paying? Everybody starts paying?” he says.

He also says those who don’t want to or can’t afford to pay parking fees will start parking elsewhere.

“What are they going to do? They’re going to start parking in the neighborhoods around the river. So the community’s going to be affected by this whether they like it or not,” Price says.

But Simpson says the idea of having some sort of resident pass or sticker will protect San Marcos citizens.

“If other people are parking here… and block up all the access, we’re going to be able to enforce on all that. That’s all going to bring in more revenue to the city,” Simpson says.

He says they aren’t sure how much revenue the measure could bring, but that a cost analysis is the next thing the board will discuss in February.

Nearby parking fees

The City of New Baunfels requires people to pay for parking at its river parks.

That’s been the case at Prince Solms Park by the Comal river since 1985. Back then it was only $2. Now, it’s $20.

Since 2018, the city has added paid parking to nearby streets and parking lots.

But the rates are only in effect between May 1 and Labor Day.

It costs between $10 and $30, depending on where you park.

People who live in New Braunfels don’t have to pay if they get a resident river pass from the city — but that doesn’t apply to the Prince Solms Parking Lot.

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