Park ranger cautions swimmers, boaters

Published 7:20 pm Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Warm weather is bringing big crowds to Higgins Ferry Park once again, but with the crowds also come safety concerns.

Reports of children swimming in the pathway of boats have alarmed Park Ranger Frank Atkinson, who brought the issue to the attention of Chilton County Commissioners Monday night.

The same concerns arose last year, when Alabama Power had looked at either moving the designated swimming area or closing it completely. While Atkinson wants the swimming area to stay, he is also looking at ways to make it safer.

“I hate to see it moved, but somebody’s going to get hurt,” he said.

A sign warns park visitors not to swim within 50 feet of the boat launch, but Atkinson said the swimming area is located too close to the launch. What’s more, to his knowledge, there is no law that prohibits people from swimming out in the waters shared by boats.

The local Marine Police can give verbal warnings to swimmers, but research is being done to see if further measures can be taken.

“It is dangerous for them (swimmers),” Atkinson said.

Higgins Ferry Park hosts fishing tournaments nearly every weekend in the summer, and tournaments always mean a large number of boats. Atkinson estimated more than 1,000 people attended the park last weekend.

Even though the county would not be liable for accidents or injuries, Atkinson said Alabama Power could be held liable.

“We’ve had some near misses,” he said.

Atkinson urges both swimmers and boaters to be extra careful.