DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – How much is scenic beauty worth?  Can a price be put on it?  The Dallas City Council has put a price of $3.2 million on the cleanup of one of its scenic gems — the Trinity River.

“Over the years it’s been used more as a dumping area than what it needs to be utilized as,” Dallas resident John Bankston said as joined as a CBS 11 News crew touring the river.

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Bankston has lived on the Trinity and boarded horses there for 40 years.  He says he’s heartsick at the thousands of tires dumped in the river.

Some of the tires float down from locations upstream, others clog up in isolated spots where the river intersects lanes needed for utility truck access. There are so many tires that sand-covered riverbanks and islands have formed on top of them.

“There should be very stiff penalties when they catch someone dumping tires in this river,” Bankston said.

Wednesday morning city council members voted to fund commercial cleanup efforts for three years… at what appears to be a steep price.

“Whenever I see 3.2 million bucks on the agenda I think, ‘When’s the next time I’m going to get asked for 3.2 million bucks.’  What’s the plan?”  Philip Kingston asked new city manager A.C. Gonzalez. The city manager responded, “To limit the access to the river, to step up enforcement areas, to have surveillance, to work with our police department, greater enforcement.”

Councilman Dwaine Caraway was incensed that this kind of action is needed.  “It is just absolutely unacceptable for folks to be able to have access, to come down and dump these tires.”

Some city staff believe cleanup is too labor intensive and hazardous for volunteer efforts.

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The commercial recovery companies will recycle the tires.  But who are the dumpers?  City marshals say they don’t leave much traceable evidence.  “We feel most of these tires are commercial in nature; they’re from either tire shops who are operating illegally or individuals who buy from tire shops,” Dallas Marshal’s Office Chief Deputy Paul Hansen told CBS 11 News.

City marshals now patrol the river looking for illegal dumping and criminal activity.   Wednesday they discovered a man illegally camping on the river levee.  “He had two firearms, so we unloaded the firearms and we issued him a citation, let him pack up, but he was free to leave after that,” Hansen said, after also urging the man to tell his friends the spot is off-limits to the public.

Last summer the city fished 3,000 tires out of the Trinity, yet there were dozens, upon dozens already back in the one spot visited by our news crew.

Part of the money set aside for cleanup is also earmarked for litter cleanup at Lake Ray Hubbard.

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