Spring Break is going to look much different on this beach

Published 11:48 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2016

One beach town has finally said enough is enough.

Panama City Beach, Florida, is a favorite destination spot for thousands of Alabamians each year. Likewise, thousands of college students flock to it and other popular Florida beaches for the annual rite of passage known as Spring Break.

You don’t have to be a college student’s broke parents or a student on the Dean’s List to know about Spring Break. It has a reputation all of its own.

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The celebrated party time rolls around during the month of March on most campuses, giving students a week off from studies. Many of them take advantage of the time to visit family, travel or just relax.

Many others use it as an excuse to escape reality and, basically, spend the entire week in a carefree and often wild party mode, giving no thought to the consequences when doing so. That can be a lot of fun, or a lot of trouble.

Panama City Beach municipal officials understand consequences all too well, including the issues a city faces in trying to manage and clean up the mess.

That mess goes far beyond property destruction such as trashed beaches and businesses, but also into lives often damaged forever. From a strictly image standpoint, there also is the risk losing a customer base of most value that wants no part of mingling with drunken college students: families and retirees.

That’s why this Florida city has enacted new ordinances, effective just for the month of March.

They include a ban on alcohol consumption on the sand beaches March 1-31. There likely will be push-back from non-student visitors who also balk at that, but if truly enforced, it’ll be a much different beach scene this spring.

Other ordinances include no gathering in parking lots of closed businesses, law enforcement will have new authority to shut down house parties, bars will close at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m., and scooter rentals will be limited.

“Panama City Beach has always been a family-friendly destination for generations,” a tourism official said. The idea now is to keep it that way.

It will be an interesting experiment to watch, and no doubt, other Gulf Coast beach-party hotspots will be doing so with an invested stake. Will this city’s tough new measures do more to help and protect its local economy, or punch a gaping hole in it?

Sometimes, however, money doesn’t decide everything.

To that point, it’s nice to see such a thought come to the table.

Online – www.oanow.com