Port Aransas preps for Spring Breakers
Laura and Austin Cain chose Port Aransas when they planned their Spring Break vacation.
"Port Aransas has an ideal family atmosphere. The other beaches on North Padre Island are too much 'party time. We have four little boys with us, and we're trying to keep them as innocent as possible," Laura Cain said as she sat on the beach Monday afternoon with her husband and her son, Austin Jr.
The Cains also brought Laura's parents, Janie and Manuel Reyes, and her siblings' children: Destiny Reyes, 14; Edward Uhl, 6, Aries Uhl, 5; and Nick Avila, 7.
The entire family spent four nights at a condominum near the beach, where the City of Port Aransas maintains a hard surface to drive on, and even lifeguard stations during Spring Break, which began Friday, March 6, and will continue through Sunday, March 22.
Cain said she and her husband had planned all year long to spend some vacation time that would coincide with her school-age relatives' time off from school in San Antonio.
"This has been really, really fun. We used to do it every year, but the kids were too little for a while, and now we definitely will enjoy it from now on," she said.
The city and various other agencies in the region have done some serious planning to keep Spring Break in Port Aransas a safe and enjoyable experience for the thousands of people expected during the annual ritual when schools across the state let students off for a week.
One drawback for people who were planning to spend Spring Break on North Padre Island and Corpus Christi area beaches is that city's ban on dogs. The dog ban includes beach areas along Mustang Island between Zahn Road and Packery Channel.
Not so in Port Aransas, as long as the city's leash and licensing laws are obeyed, dogs are welcome on the beaches.
"Corpus Christi is doing a dog ban, and they've got an ordinance in place. Dogs are welcome in Port Aransas, and regulations for dogs apply; they must have a leash and owners must pick up after them," said Michael Kovacs, city manager.
Kovacs said the city has worked diligently to clean excess sand off the beaches and to see that a new surface on Beach Street from the beach to Station Street is completed earlier this week to handle added traffic along the main thoroughfare to the beach near Horace Caldwell Pier.
"Large portions of the Beach Street cement stabilized base failed during asphalt application removal," Kovacs said on Thursday, March 5.
"Paving has stopped and all of the paving has been removed. The bad base material will be removed by the contrac- tor and cement stabilization redone on the street over the next few days. Jim Urban (the city's contract engineer) is overseeing the process and will re-inspect the base material Monday. Paving could start again early next week," Kovacs continued.
As an added measure to ensure beachgoer safety, the city has hired lifeguards and has erected two lifeguard stations on the beach, one at Avenue G and one at Mile Marker 3.
The city also has negotiated with Nueces County to operate an additional two lifeguard stations on the beach.
"People can go to them in an emergency, if they are stung by a man-o-war, the lifeguards have the materials to handle this," said Gary Mysorski, the city's director of parks and recreation, said.
Mysorski said the stations and the lifeguards will be on the beach through Sunday, March 22.
"We are looking forward to a good, safe Spring Break," Mysorski said.
The Texas Department of Transportation also is getting on board with ensuring an enjoyable Spring Break in Port Aransas in 2009.
TxDOT operates the Port Aransas ferry system, which connects Harbor Island to Port Aransas across the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.
In addition to existing travel information about ferry wait times on State Hwy. 361 from Aransas Pass, a second message board will be available in the parking lot of the Port Aransas Civic Center, 710 W. Ave. A.
A contractor that has been performing work on the ferry landings will move its equipment from the area to make way for the waves of Spring Breakers expected to come to Mustang Island.
"This will allow all the (five) ramps to be available for use. The Port Aransas ferry System will have all six boats available to serve the public," said Frances Garza, public information officer for TxDOT.
PARK AND RIDE
PARK A golf cart also will be available for park and ride from the Port Aransas ferry parking lot on the Harbor Island side.
"Ride the golf cart to the ferry boats and ride instead of driving; skip the line. TxDOT continues to promote this program to reduce the time cars are waiting in line to board the ferry," Garza said.
Garza warned that motorists arriving at the ferry landing to spend Spring Break in Port Aransas should be prepared for higher than normal volumes of traffic, to expect delays and be patient.
"TxDOT will continue to strive to move people and vehicles in a safe, effective and efficient manner throughout Spring Break. Serving visitors to the area, the people of Port Aransas and the citizens of Texas is a reponsibility that TxDOT and members of the Port Aransas ferry system take very seriously. They constantly strive to give the best and most efficient service possible," Garza said.
Kovacs said several law enforcement agencies spent weeks planning for the annual Spring Break 2009.
Those agencies include the Port Aransas Police Department, the Aransas Pass Police Department, the Corpus Christi Police Department, The Nueces County Constable's office, Precinct 4, the Nueces Countty Sheriff's Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission.
Each branch will serve specific functions during Spring Break, Kovacs said, but he has left the planning and meetings up to Port Aransas Police Chief Scott Burroughs to handle the logistics.
"The Aransas Pass Police Department will handle all police calls on Harbor Island, on that side of the ferry and that's a huge help for us," Kovacs said.
Burroughs said the Port Aransas PD will coordinate law enforcement efforts on the beach and on city streets with Constable Bobby Sherwood's office. The DPS will patrol with its DWI task force to keep excessive drinking and driving off the streets, and the TABC will enforce underage drinking laws.
Burroughs said that although he has only spent the winter here in his short time as police chief, he has heard from veterans that the weekend of March 7-9 was about like a typical busy summer weekend.
He said the biggest weekend is pending from Friday, March 13, to Sunday, March 15, when high schoolers from Corpus Christi and San Antonio will be joined by college students from all over the state.