TROY — The board of park commissioners voted to ban swimming at Treasure Island Park due to increased safety concerns on Tuesday.
President Alan Kappers was not present at the meeting.
The action item was placed on the commissioner’s agenda Tuesday morning.
Commissioners Susan Westfall and Jordan Emerick approved the recommendation to prohibit swimming at Treasure Island harbor and off the banks of the park and to erect signs in the park. The board previously banned fishing in the harbor area, formerly known as the lagoon, to keep fishing line out of the area’s fountain pump equipment. The fishing restriction is limited to the harbor itself.
Director of Public Service and Safety Patrick Titterington addressed the board Tuesday, stating the city’s insurance company had revised their recommendation to keep the area open to swimming. Titterington said since the park’s renovation, the harbor area has attracted many people, including children — most of whom are unattended by adults and not wearing flotation devices — and are concerned for safety reasons.
The ban goes into effect once signs are installed, which Titterington said would be at the end of the week.
The ban does not prohibit the public from launching a boat, raft or tube out into the river and then swimming in the river due to it being a state water way, Titterington said.
“We can control the entry points to swimming so if they go off site and they want to jump in the river, that becomes a state issue and we’ve explained that to people those who have grown concerned especially since some of the youth that likes to jump in the middle of the river — not that it’s normally that deep — but, they still get concerned about it,” he said.
Titterington said activity continues to grow in the park, and swimmers are attracted to the new and expanded dock sites.
Troy Police Department has reported 70 incidents at Treasure Island in the last 18 months.
Titterington said following last year’s drowning death, they were advised not to do anything different by their insurance company, but revisited the issue again with the insurance company to review the city’s concerns about safety in the park area again and were approved.
“We are growing concerned again due to the activity,” he said.
A near drowning was reported in the harbor area around 4:30 p.m. July 1. According to initial reports, a juvenile female nearly drowned in the boat launch area. The female had been resuscitate upon arrival and was transported to Upper Valley Medical Center for further evaluation.
Both Police Chief Charles Phelps and Fire Chief Matthew Simmons supported the recommendation.
“For whatever reason, since the park has been developed the good news is that is being used quite a bit more, but the bad news is that we got a lot of kids in the harbor swimming and doing things that may damage equipment or may present themselves with risks,” Phelps said. Phelps said since the docks have been installed “it’s become a magnet for that activity and a lot of it is unsupervised.”
Simmons said in his opinion is it very dangerous to swim in the area and has witnessed children not wearing life jackets or personal flotation devices off the harbor area.
“In any moving water way it’s dangerous for anyone to swim without a personal flotation device, which is the recommendation by the state and Ohio Department of Natural Resources,” Simmons said. “As a fire department and EMS perspective, we feel it is a danger.”
Titterington said the city will make the signs as soon as possible. According to the report, if a person violated the park rules they could be subject to criminal trespassing, a fourth degree misdemeanor, with fines up to $250 and/or 30 days in jail.
On July 18, 2017, Lillian May, 13, passed away at Upper Valley Medical Center around 11 p.m. July 18, after she was pulled from the harbor area by first responders, where she had been swimming with friends around dusk.
The girls were playing a “hide-and-go-seek” style game in the water when May went missing. Friends had initially thought May had left and gone home to her grandfather’s home on Lincoln Street. When she wasn’t there, they called 9-1-1.
Following the incident, police officials conducted a search of the dock area by scuba team investigators, including a crane was brought in to lift up the floating docks out of the water to be photographed. The area around the dock was estimated to be approximately 6 feet deep. No debris or other obstruction was found in or around the dock area, according to officials.
Treasure Island Park underwent a $1.7 million renovation, which was completed in 2016. The marina building, which overlooks the harbor area where the incident occurred, underwent a $1 million renovation.