Texas Hill Country News

5 Things to Know About the ‘Can Ban’ Before You Head to New Braunfels

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Tony Maples Photography


The official start to Summer 2017 is only a couple of weeks away and there remains a lot of confusion about the so-called “can ban” in New Braunfels. Visitors and locals alike are finding themselves scratching their sunburned scalps over what the current rules are for bringing beverages on the city’s two rivers. Can you or can’t you bring cans onto the rivers?

The Backstory

The 2011 law, dubbed the “can ban,” prohibited disposal food and beverage containers on portions of the rivers. It was implemented after the summer of 2011, which was deemed “River Wild,” because of the substantial amount of litter, arrests, and drownings at the river. Fifty-eight percent of New Braunfels residents supported the can ban and an immediate decrease in litter was noted.

Then, in 2014, a district judge ruled the can ban to be unconstitutional and reversed the ruling, making way for cans and disposable bottles to return to the rivers. The city of New Braunfels immediately appealed that ruling but could do nothing to prevent tubers from bringing cans back to the river.

Now, three years later, Texas 3rd Court of Appeals Justice Bob Pemberton has determined that the district judge who reversed the can ban lacked jurisdiction over the matter. This appeals court ruling paves the way for New Braunfels to reinstate the can ban, which was created to reduce littering on the rivers, according to the Austin American Statesman.

1. You can bring cans…for now.

Tubers Can Ban

Photo: Facebook/Rockin R River Rides

The can ban can’t be enforced until the appellate court issues a mandate by July 28 or sooner. Mayor Barron Casteel said the city will probably reinstate the ban but will allow for an education and grace period, as it has in the past with its ordinances limiting smoking and texting while driving. This likely means that for the entirety of the Summer 2017 tubing season, cans will be allowed on the rivers.

2. “J-e-l-l–NO!”

Jello Shot

Photo: Flickr/Beau B

Regardless of the can ban rules, no containers under five fluid ounces are permitted on the rivers or lakes in New Braunfels (This usually refers to “Jello Shots” in five ounce or smaller containers). This rule was created because so many people littered the rivers with the small plastic containers after doing their Jello Shots, causing environmental problems. Jello Shots have NOT been outlawed, only containers that are five ounces or smaller have been banned.

3. The ecosystem breathed a sigh of relief during the can ban.


Photo: Flickr/Larry Miller

The can ban was successful in stopping the litter that once was strewn carelessly along the river. According to Comal Tubes, in one month during the can ban, there was 1,800 pounds of litter collected, which was only 15% of what was collected the previous year. The can ban also cause unruly and rowdy behavior to decrease. Citations also decreased by nearly half of what they were the year before and arrests were down almost 75%.

4. The New Braunfels economy suffered.

Pat's Place

Photo: Flickr/clio1789

The can ban certainly took the strain off of the wildlife and ecosystems on New Braunfels’ two popular rivers, but business was down – way down during that time. Visitors, unsure if they were allowed to consume alcohol on the rivers, chose to vacation elsewhere, taking their cans and their money to other bodies of water.

5. “Captain Obvious” rules are still in play.


Photo: Flickr/Geoffrey Gallaway

The can ban might be “wishy washy,” but a few rules remain unchanged. No glass or styrofoam is ever allowed on the rivers or lakes. When in doubt about the current rules regarding river use in New Braunfels, use common sense. Bring a mesh bag to tote your litter out of the river and be courteous of others, especially families with children who are enjoying the river as well. Most of all, stay safe and leave New Braunfels’ rivers in better shape than you found them.