San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

ALFRED L. McALISTER, a UT School of Public Health professor, writes that ‘prompt action is needed to prevent injury in the highly dangerous water around the breaches in Capes Dam’ 


Your editorial pages this week illustrate a critical point in the debate about the fate of Cape’s Dam weir on the San Marcos River: No one can be certain about how its destruction will affect the future of a precious riverine parkland much beloved for healthy recreational use by city residents and visitors.

It is also clear to me that prompt action is needed to prevent injury in the highly dangerous water around the breaches in Capes Dam enlarged by this year’s flooding. In my opinion the best way to optimize public safety and the public health benefits of aquatic parklands will be actions like those taken in the transformation of Rio Vista Falls from a hazard to a safe place for physically active public recreation.

Destruction of the dam is a risky gamble based on variable assumptions, whereas restoration is certain to preserve the beautiful waterfall and swimming hole pictured in your recent coverage, and the stretch between there and Rio Vista Falls that San Marcos residents, frequent kayaking visitors like me, and diverse fish species, have enjoyed for many decades.

Dripping Springs

ALFRED L. McALISTER is a behavioral health professor at the University of Texas’ School of Public Health. The San Marcos Mercury welcomes original letters to the editor about issues of public interest. Send letters through our contact page or email them to Editor & Publisher Brad Rollins.

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2 thoughts on “Letter: Removing Cape’s Dam ‘a risky gamble’

  1. Might as well post this email from Dr. McAlister for those who wonder, as I did, how his behavioral science field informs his position on Cape’s Dam. Someone’s already asked through social media.
    “The dam issue is related to my field of expertise in that I have studied and teach about (but not published on) drowning and related injury hazards, and the evidently interacting effects of moderately vigorous physical activity, green spaces and proximity to water on mental and physical health. It’s looking like swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking and canoeing in beautiful greenery lined moving water may be one of the most healthy behaviors we can promote.
    “But it doesn’t take an expert to see there is an injury hazard now for boaters using the river right of way through this area…and this concerns me also personally as I am around there often and worry when I see groups of kayakers using the legal right of way to come down past the dam.
    “And it’s obvious to almost anyone who uses the river that the stretch of water between Cape’s and Rio Vista is an incredibly beautiful setting of flat and slow moving water that many, including me personally, get a great benefit from…and it will be destroyed if the dam is removed.”

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