Spring Break rated 'good'
While lamenting the deaths of two teen-agers in a fiery auto crash Thursday night, Port Aransas business owners and city officials say this year's Spring Break crowd was relatively well-behaved.
They also say while it wasn't a record breaker economically, the week of March 11-17 - the major Spring Break week - was a good one.
"All the accommodations I heard from were 90-100 percent full most of the week," said Ann Bracher Vaughan, executive director of the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce Tourist Bureau.
"I think everyone did fairly well, but weren't necessarily frantic."
"It wasn't a record-breaker but it was a good Spring Break week," said Family Center IGA co-owner and store director Mike Hall. Hall is known for keeping business records on trends.
Police Chief Sam Russell said he thought his first Spring Break as head of the police department went "fairly well."
"There are some things we could do better," Russell said. But he said most of those things involve internal department management.
Russell said he plans a departmentwide de-briefing next week, when police officers and other city officials will take a look at the city's performance during the annual student invasion of the beaches.
He attributed much of the quiet week to a corresponding invasion of law enforcement officers. During the peak Spring Break week, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) had 48 troopers here off and on, and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) and Parks and Wildlife Department also contributed police officers.
As usual, Port Aransas hired offduty police officers from nearby - and not-so-nearby - cities to make up a second officer in local police cars. The contract officers were paired with Port Aransas officers, putting two officers in each unit with at least one of them familiar with the city.
Nueces County Precinct 4 Constable Bobby Sherwood also noted the cooperation among police agencies during the week, saying that accounted for much of the smoothness.
"I think (Spring Break) went fairly smoothly," said Sherwood, who has been in Port Aransas enough to have seen his share of Spring Breaks.
Russell's figures show that most of the arrests over the past week were for driving while intoxicated (116). That can be attributed to the DPS task force that was here much of the week, he pointed out.
The next greatest number of arrests, however, was for public intoxication, accounting for 55 charges. Possession of marijuana (27 arrests), outstanding warrants from county courts (24) also accounted for large numbers, but 21 arrests on outstanding Port Aransas Municipal Court warrants indicates that not all those who ran afoul of the law were from out of town.
Reflecting the young age of the crowd, as well as the presence of TABC officers, 19 arrests were for minors in possession of alcoholic beverages, rounding out the top halfdozen offenses.
Officers made a total of 342 arrests between 8 a.m. on Friday, March 9 and 8 a.m. Sunday, March 18, Russell's figures show. However, that doesn't include citations for minor offenses and traffic violations such as speeding or running stop signs.
The city's Public Works Director, Crockett Moreno, virtually had to abandon any thought of maintaining roadways on the beach. Instead, one of Moreno's major worries was wooden shipping pallets being used to build bonfires. The city has recently passed an ordinance banning the burning of any wood containing nails on the beach.
Other than keeping an eye out for pallets, it was "business as usual," Moreno said.
Assistant City Manager Judy Lyle had praise for the city's Emergency Medical Service and Volunteer Fire Department.
"There were 70 EMS calls that week," Lyle said. "And the fire department was available to everybody. They were very helpful in traffic control."
She also noted that the city enforced the ordinance requiring beach parking permits more than it has during past Spring Breaks. That alone will help with revenue that can be used for beach maintenance, she said.
"I think we did a pretty good job," Lyle summed up.
Lyle also noted that not all Spring Break visitors were students.
"I saw a lot of families down there (on area beaches)," she said.
Vaughan concurred. While she said it's too early to have a firm grip on demographics of Spring Break '07, her impression from talking to the Tourist Bureau staff is that Port Aransas saw some new visitors this year.
"Many of the people we were seeing (at the Tourist Bureau office) were new people," she said.