Freeport hopes new idea will curb drownings

May 29, 2013 7:55:11 AM PDT
Three drownings in one weekend have inspired an idea in one town that could end up saving lives. The idea is to charge fees to use the beach, and to use that money to, among other things, hire lifeguards.

Every time Jamie Zuniga comes to Freeport beach, he can't help but wonder about the safety of his children in the water. A lifeguard, he says, would help calm those fears.

"It's better for all the families that come here," he said.

Freeport City Manager Jeff Pynes says the drowning deaths occurring over the holiday weekend across the greater Houston area got him to thinking about ways they could make the six miles of Bryan Beach safer, maybe adding more lifeguards on platforms, more police or EMS patrols.

"At the end of the day, we sit back and say, 'Is there something we can do better?'" Pynes said.

All this costs money, and Pynes is trying to figure out if those who use the beach would be willing to pay for it. If the city were to implement a beach access fee, could they fund the lifeguards, maybe some permanent bathrooms instead of the portable toilets?

"A park has bathrooms, a little building for bathrooms," said Clear Lake resident Holley Hood. "So why would it be so hard to put it on a beach?"

Some of the money, Pynes said, could even be used for trash removal.

"I think it'd be a good thing to charge people. We'd pay, especially if there is a cleaner beach, lifeguards. I wouldn't have to worry about watching my child as much," beach visitor John Rowe said.

It's not yet clear how much that fee could be. Other cities nearby, like Surfside and Galveston, also collect fees for use of the beaches.

Freeport is soliciting the public's opinion on its Facebook page.

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