- Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 September 2009 05:00
- Published on Wednesday, 02 September 2009 05:00
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Editor: Note: This story reflects the concerns expressed at the Public Safety Committee meeting last week. While press reports about the meeting have been negative so far, the committee is still in the process of attempting to deal with a problem presented to it earlier this summer.
Colonial Beach is currently struggling with issues of overcrowding on the Point. Visitors with poor etiquette have caused town officials to take drastic measures to ensure the surrounding property owners their right to peaceful and quite living.
Recently, the town responded to overcrowding issues at Castlewood Park. Residents complained of too much trash left behind and visitors camping overnight. Since the public bathroom facilities are closed during the evening, some overnight visitors have taken to using the beach as their restroom.
When Town officials closed the park to assess damage and try to address the problem, several safety hazards were uncovered. Fences had been broken, unsanitary trash had been strewn by buzzards and rats, and dead tree limbs overhead were discovered.
Officials are working to reopen the park, but in the midst of all the new restrictions, new problems have arisen and the park dwellers have moved to the beaches surrounding the park.
Citizens took advantage of the town’s open forum committee meeting process last week to air more complaints. Many of these complaints have laid dormant over the years under previous town councils which were not as inviting of public comment.
In response to the most vocal comments from citizens living around the Point, the Public Safety Committee met last Wednesday at 6 p.m. to discuss proposed ordinances that may serve to give police flexibility to enforce codes that would prohibit anyone from harassing others or putting others in danger.
As with all ordinances, these are going through the planning stage and will ultimately go through a public hearing. The proposed ordinances, according to Town Manager Val Foulds, would not take effect till next year.
Up first on the agenda was an ordinance prohibiting the obstruction of the beach and sidewalks and roads adjacent to beaches. This ordinance was directly spawned by complaints of a resident who is bound to a wheelchair and has encountered visitors who have set up chairs and coolers on the sidewalk, obstructing the flow of walking traffic.
The ordinance does not prohibit use of dugouts, chairs, umbrellas, windbreakers, surfboards, air floats or similar paraphernalia. It only restricts patrons from using these and other items to obstruct, impede or retard the free and unconstrained use and occupancy of such sand and beach by the public.
Another ordinance covers playing ball and the use of Frisbees or any activity that would endanger the safety of others on the sandy portion of the beach during the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays and extending to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays, except where posted.
During the discussion, concerns were raised whether to leave Frisbees in or out.
Foulds responded by saying, “One thing I want to caution you about is when we start taking out words like Frisbee, and that becomes a problem next year, then people start complaining and we have to do this again next year, which means another public hearing.
Councilman Kennedy responded: “I think what we’re going to end up doing is telling people to sit on the beach and not move. I’m afraid to be too restrictive. We want people to come here and enjoy themselves and have a good time.”
Chief Hawkins said: “It’s also in the way we enforce it too.” Hawkins discussed enforcing the code right to letter or using discretion. “There’s a law in Virginia Code restricting spitting on the sidewalk, but how often do you hear of anyone getting a ticket for it,” he said.
Kennedy discussed the need to allow officers the flexibility to enforce rules, but cautioned the committee to not be too restrictive that they chase away polite beachgoers.
“You don’t want any family to come down here, can’t move, can’t do anything, just show up and sit there,” Councilman Lyburn said. “You’ve got to have some activities for them.”
One ordinance that received little criticism was one that prohibits sleeping on the beach overnight between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
The proposed ordinances seek to handle issues that would prohibit people from monopolizing the beach and would eliminate garbage, human waste and other safety issues such as hot charcoal and fishing hooks left in the sand where beachgoers swim.
Several ordinances also seek to segregate activities such as swimming in certain areas, fishing in another and full-fledged ball games in designated areas so that beachgoers can enjoy all activities without encroaching on others’ rights to enjoy the beach in their own unique way.
Anyone who is interested in having their voice heard is encouraged to attend the Town Council meetings held on the second Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. and Public Safety Committee meetings held on the last Thursday of every month at 6 p.m.
By Linda Farneth, Staff Reporter