River task force talks ideas to possibly ban swimming in some parts of the Chattahoochee River

River task force talks ideas to possibly ban swimming in some parts of the Chattahoochee River

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - New ideas to make the Chattahoochee River safer could change the way you plan your visit.

A day after News Leader 9 held special coverage of river safety, Mayor Skip Henderson says this week, city leaders in Columbus and Phenix City came together with representatives of the Department of Natural Resources and other respective parties to discuss ideas on how to increase safety.

“We don’t want to react irrationally and over legislate, but we did talk about whether or not there’s a need to limit access on the rocks for children under a certain age unless they’re wearing a personal floatation device,” says Henderson.

The suggestions were given by a special river safety task force. Henderson says that force is now proposing changes to river ordinances before possibly presenting them to the Columbus City Council.

“We hadn’t talked to council about the ordinance changes because we also talked about whether or not we want to make swimming illegal in certain parts of the river. We have to be able to define it. We have to talk to the city attorney and make sure we’re on solid ground if we’re trying to change something like that,” says Henderson.

There is an ordinance that was put into effect in 2017 that increased the fine for being in or too close to the river without a life jacket from $25 to $200. Henderson says other proposed changes from the task force are changes to signs to make them more visible. Columbus police say in one day, they gave out more than eight citations. They say they’re going to continue to patrol the area.

“We’re going to go down there. We’ll continue to have our people go by. If we see someone in the river and they don’t have a floatation device on, we’ll issue citations,” says Gil Slouchick, assistant chief of Columbus police.

“I’m glad they’re citing them,” says Henderson. “You have to inspect what you expect. If we don’t enforce the ordinance, then it’s really meaningless. I think this is going to help generate a lot of buzz around not going into the water without a PFD on.”

Henderson says the task force is periodically examining all possible changes to maybe present to city council to make the river safer.

It is possible that the public could see some changes in how they spend time at the river.

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