Originally created 05/13/02

Swim on, dudes

After a loud public outcry, the Augusta Canal Authority has wisely changed its thinking on the century-old prohibition against swimming in the Savannah River. The Augusta Commission will soon get the same message when the authority requests the ban be banished.

Many people in the Central Savannah River Area didn't even know they weren't allowed to swim or play in the waterways. They grew up swimming, wading and fishing wherever they didn't consider it dangerous. It wasn't until the recent drowning of an 11-year-old boy at the Raes Creek spillway along the Augusta Canal that "No Swimming" signs sprouted and law-enforcers began shooing people away.

It's tragic when anyone drowns, but trying to enforce an obsolete code that deprives recreation lovers of fun along the river is a drastic overreaction. People won't stand for it. It's confusing, impractical and un-American.

Boating, water-skiing and other water-related activities can force some persons into the river to swim. Are those activities also to be banned? And how can miles and miles of river shoreline be policed to stop swimmers? It's ridiculous. The swim ban itself may even be legally questionable.

The commission should move quickly on the canal authority's advice to lift the river's swim prohibition. Enforcing rules against drunks, vagrants, druggies and litterers makes sense; arresting waders and fishermen does not.

Parents, not police, are the best safeguards against child drownings. If Junior can't be taught where and when it's too dangerous to swim, then he shouldn't be allowed to go near the water by himself. It's unfair to deprive the vast majority of responsible water-lovers of their fun in order to protect the irresponsible few who don't take sensible precautions near the river.

The Canal Authority, however, is limiting its recommendation just to the Savannah River; it wants to keep the swim ban at the canal in effect. Why is it right to remove the ban from the river but not the canal? Persons responsible around one of the waterways should be just as responsible around the other.


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