Monday, May 28, 2001

Boaters left high and dry

Swimmers not deterred by rain, chilly temps

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Water rising on the Ohio kept most boaters on land this weekend, but water falling from the sky didn't have the same effect on local swimmers.

        “We had a pretty good turnout, probably over 100 people, which is pretty good considering the weather,” said Julie Thorp, assistant manager at Clifton Meadows Swim Club in Clifton. “Mostly it's kids. They don't mind if their lips turn blue.”

        One thing expected to show more blue this week is the sky, with sporadic showers and higher temperatures, meteorological technician Don Hughes of the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, said Sunday.

        Clifton Meadows, which is private, and many municipal pools open on Memorial Day weekend. It's usually a big boating weekend, but the swollen Ohio River — and the resulting floating debris — took the wind from the U.S. Coast Guard's sails.

        The Coast Guard and its auxiliary, which patrols the river, and a coalition of national boating agencies are participating in Operation Boatsmart Campaign. It's a four-year campaign to improve boating safety.

        More than 72 million Americans participate in recreational boating, in 16 million boats and watercraft, according to the Coast Guard. Seven hundred to 800 recreational boaters, including about 40 children, die in boating accidents each year, the Guard said.

        “So far, we haven't been on the river,” Coast Guard Auxiliary Chief Petty Officer Alan Hayes said Sunday. “We have seen zero pleasure boats, with water being up the way it is. Nobody wants to put their boat in with all that debris. I think they'll wait till that all clears.”

        That could begin this week. After reaching a high of 44 feet on Friday, the Ohio fell to 37.1 feet by Sunday afternoon, Mr. Hughes said, and it should continue to fall.

        Several weeks of above-average river levels left mounds of debris on both banks.

        At the Schmidt boat ramp in the East End on Sunday, Jason Barney of the Cincinnati Park District used a high-pressure water hose to push mud, plastic bottles and tree limbs off the parking lot and back to the water's edge.

        “It's been very slow,” Mr. Barney said.


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