Friday, January 19, 2007

Cruising, Revisited

I can tell you exactly how to get rid of cruising and it is very simple: give these kids something else to do! Like it or not, spring break on SPI is a teen magnet. As I see it, we can alienate and attempt to intimidate these kids with more laws, more cops and a stronger hand -- or we can convince them that SPI is a cool, happy place that welcomes them here now and will welcome them back someday when they get older and have more disposable income.

There are two indisputable truths here, sez I:

1. You cannot legally prevent underage valley kids from coming to SPI any time they have hankering to.

2. They are going to have some serious hankerings during spring break, due to the fact that there are massive numbers of young, pretty people of both genders on the island at that time - a time when they are likely on break themselves with nothing better to do than cruise out to the island.

If private enterprise cannot see a need/opportunity here then perhaps it is in the town's best interest to start a program of its own. If cruising really is such a horrendous problem, it would be worth throwing some money at giving underage kids an activity of their own, right? A facility or even just a parking lot where they can "hang out", buy refreshments, listen to music/dance, etc. The law can have a presence without becoming overly-obnoxious if these kids are mostly gathered in one spot.

If there is any doubt as to whether or not the valley kids would participate in such a plan -- well shoot, has anyone even thought to ask them?

I just returned from a week-long stay on the island of Vieques. Esperanza's "main drag" features a lighted, tree-shaded malecon -- a wide, pleasant walkway that extends almost the entire length of the town's waterfront. (O that our town's founders had shown similar foresight along the bay!) Street venders set up in the evening. Lots of benches exist for anyone wishing to sit and the area is easily patrolled by the local officials.

This is how I would describe the weekend scene: At one end is a bar that blasts great music - music that makes your butt start twitching of its own accord. Both residents and tourists of all ages are purchasing drinks at something like 4-5 waterfront establishments and either dancing or watching others on the dance-floor (and man o man is it fun watching the locals dance!) All along the colored light-festooned malecon kids of all ages are strutting their stuff, dancing, leaning against the railing talking, or smooching on benches. The only people "cruising" in vehicles are the cops and car-bound folks looking for a place to park.

As long as cruising is the most entertaining activity open to people of a certain age group, fighting it is going to be a losing proposition. Like I said in my first post on this subject, we are talking less than a dozen nights/year when this is a problem. How many deaths? How many lives ruined? Just how serious is this problem? Where are the stats to back up these assertions?

This is a town full of self-proclaimed conservatives who want more laws and bigger government to solve a problem that barely exists. Disappearing beaches, ugly beach access parks, cold turtles and preservation of native flora & fauna -- these are the issues upon which we should be lavishing our energies.

And yes, I am grumpy. I got sick sitting on the tarmac while attempting to leave a tropical paradise for this cold miserable excuse for winter on South Padre Island this week. When is the sun supposed to come back out,anyway???!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it a problem? Well, while you were away you missed a letter to the editor of the Island Breeze saying one of the biggest reasons his "zoomer" peer group does not visit or move to SPI is concern about Spring Break traffic. It is the IMAGE that is the problem, more than the reality. That's all the rest of the country knows of SPI, Spring Break and Girls Gone Wild. We all know there are some pretty sleezy auxiliary activities that go on between cruisers and pedestrians. Cops can't be everywhere. Women and young girls get seriously harrassed and groped against their will. Sometimes, it's worse; pretty traumatic for some of them. That's an ugly side effect of the cruising. I know a 15 year old girl who was just walking between shops at 9:00 at night with her girlfriend and 4 guys jumped out of a car and surrounded them, they were subjected to groping, exposure, etc. Not fun at 15. By the time, they found cops to talk to, the guys had taken off.

9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You islanders get yourself on over to Sea Turtle, Inc. and lend a hand.

Massive numbers of sea turtle strandings
due to current extreme cold weather.
Sea Turtle, Inc. needs your help
email or call (956) 761-4511

AP article:

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's even snowing in Malibu, West LA! It hasn't snowed in LA since 1962!

I blame the Gore Effect: The well documented phenomenon that leads to very low, unseasonal temperatures, driving rain, hail, snow or all of the above whenever Al Gore visits an area to discuss global "warming". Hence the "Gore Effect."

Yup, it's Algore, Lucinda. He's probably cruisin' on Padre Blvd. and up to mischief. Heh! :)

11:38 PM  
Blogger Lucinda said...

Anon #9:00: I ask for stats, you give me an ancedote.... and you say yourself it is more a problem of image than reality. The reality is that spring break is dying of its own accord. Look at the numbers. Talk to the tour operators. Numbers continue to go down and the image is fading as well. I travel a lot. I tell a lot of people where I am from and the GGW connection just isn't there like it used to be.

It would be nice if parents of 15 year old girls would exercise a little authority and keep their kids off the island the whole month of March. But we can't control that. What we can do is give those kids something to do other than cruise.

Restrictive laws that are only needed a few nights out of the year are not the answer.

8:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Over the last 4 to 5 years it seems the island has changed from a laid back come all welcome all attitude to a more snobbery uppity mentality. It seems more second home buyers want this as a private retreat to owners and want less visitors. What everyone seems to forget is that they were kids themselves once and yes 30 some years ago I was cruising the streets in the town and nearby towns where I grew up. And yes I was looking for girls and on occassion partaking in underage drinking. The island needs these kids at spring break and also the tourist and short term renters who help support hte local economy through tourism. A board walk on either side would be nice. Just look at Key West about an hour before sunset and late into the night. The boardwalk is jam packed. It did not need casinos to make it such a hot spot.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boardwalk? Heck, I'd settle right now for a sidewalk on Gulf which cant' be driven over by Subburbans. SPI is markedly pedestrian and biclyclist unfriendly. The more that can be done to get people, including underage valley kids during sping break or whenever, out of their cars and walking and cycling, the nicer SPI will be as a resort.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi: a couple of good ideas out of this. One setis from Sandy talking about making a place or places with something to do for the visitors, especially the valley kids who are underage. And the island is pedestrian unfriendly; also biking can be a problem since there are really no marked bike lanes. How about some sidewalk areas for sitting down -- like benches or groups of tables and chairs, places to relax. Let's get more ideas and try to put them into place. Other Nancy M on a brief Houston trip

6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spring Break should last a little longer this year as TX & OK schools break on different weeks. For the past few years they were both breaking on the same week.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Good post, Sandy Feet. Cruising is what happens when the Coke Beach party is over and the club scene starts, right at about 5:00. It lasts for about an hour or two during Texas Week but is pretty much dead otherwise. So not only would a cruising rule only cover a few days a year, maybe 10 peak days, but only a few hours a day. I have met with the Police Chief about this and he was quite informative.

I can't speak for the Town but the idea is mainly to let the kids do their thing, and only treat the emergencies and flagrant violations. I like that philosophy.

Folks, we're basically shafting these kids with super high room rates. A small hotel room costs hundreds ($30 today) and a substantial damage deposit is required. Give the poor fellows a break! Estimates of hotel revenue are easily over a million bucks.

As an update, there is renewed interest in a bayside boardwalk. The discussions are complicated and mostly behind the scenes, as there are a host of issues such as private financing, GLO permitting, and public partnering. A tax incentive or TIFT zone could be created, a grand scheme that would require several years. The original land plats done by John L. Thompkins did not provide for a boardwalk because it was assumed the bayside owners had "riparian rights." However, in the commercial district it might work because of the economic revenue that could be generated by such a facility. It could become a gold mine, of sorts.

Be careful though, because concepts such as banning loitering and public drinking there could ruin the entire concept, not to mention "cruising" in personal watercraft!


1:40 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

As a life-long visitor to SPI, ive seen it slowly change from a very laid back beach town to a town full of self-righteous, parttime property owners, who try to dictate govermental policy that effects all of us. Whats the hold up in developing a boardwalk on the bay??

10:07 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

From your laid-back, full time property owner here - and a supporter of a boardwalk -

My understanding is money. The town could barely pull off investments in the town hall and median project before people screamed bloody murder. Building a boardwalk can be hundreds of dollars a foot (permits, architecture, engineering, construction, amenities).

Certain inviduals also oppose it on the grounds that it would increase the town's liability and require a large insurance policy.

Other issues are that private people own the land down to the bulkhead, and a boardwalk would give access to their back yards.

Maintenance, that's a good one. he town has a tough enough time with the beach walks and streets already.

My last thought is that maybe a private developer is waiting for the stars to line up. There have been some discussions but it is very hush-hush.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As long as the "cruisers" are residents and vacationers, your idea of providing a place for the kids to hang out might lessen the car traffic.

However, I think the opposite would happen if your cruisers are mostly kids from the valley. More of them would come after providing an additional place for them to check out the local action. I think you'd see the traffic easily double. Cruising would not cease just because an additional source of fun had been provided.

The Law of Unintended Consequences can bite ya in the arse.

6:11 PM  

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