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This local park’s new rules are the latest in battling dangers on the region’s rivers

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Treasure Island Park in Troy for kayaks, canoes, bicycles and walking

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A Miami County park that was the site of a drowning last summer has banned swimming and fishing because of water safety concerns, becoming the latest in the area to take action.

The Troy park board banned swimming and fishing from city property and docks at Treasure Island Park as activities at the young park continue to grow.

Water safety, especially around the region’s network of rivers, spikes in the summertime and drowning or near-drowning incidents increase. In April, a witness to an incident during which a 2-year-old boy nearly drowned in the Great Miami River at Island MetroPark felt strongly enough that she wrote a letter to park officials about her concerns.

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In the 10-year span from 2007-16, there were 944 accidental drowning deaths in Ohio, according to Ohio Department of Health data. That included a high of 108 in 2008 and a low of 77 in 2011. In 2016, the most recent year with complete data, there were 94 deaths.

Montgomery County tied for second-most accidental drowning deaths in 2016, with eight.

The Troy park board action is meant to alleviate such concerns, and the new regulation is favored by city police and fire administration. The penalty for ignoring the ban could be a criminal trespassing charge, a misdemeanor, with possible maximum $250 fine and 30 days in jail.

“In my opinion, it is very dangerous to swim in that area, especially where the docks are,” said Fire Chief Matt Simmons.

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A 13-year old Troy girl drowned in the harbor dock area in July 2017. Another incident happened July 1 when paramedics were called to the boat dock area. A preliminary police report said the juvenile "nearly drowned in the boat launch area."

Two other recent incidents in the region caused officials to warn about safety. In the April incident at Island MetroPark in Dayton, the 2-year-old boy fell into the river. His father pulled him out, and the boy survived.

“Thankfully, the park was full of families and parents, so we were able to dial 911 as instructed on the Metro Parks website, but I would like for there to be posts with buttons that people can push throughout the trails and near playground areas,” Briana Greenwood, a witness to that incident, wrote in the letter to the park board.

Last month, Benjamin Gipson died after going missing while kayaking and drowning in the Great Miami River in Butler County.

“If you’re going to enjoy the water, just try to take all the precautions you can to be safe,” Hamilton police Deputy Chief Ken Runyan said.

Officials have taken action elsewhere along the river. A dangerous low dam near downtown Dayton is expected to be gone by fall, which will create a safer experience. Another low dam was partially removed as part of the $4 million RiverScape River Run project.

More than 70 incidents of all kinds had been reported at Treasure Island in Troy, said Patrick Titterington, city service and safety director.

“We definitely want to promote recreation on the river,” said Don Pemberton, a Troy Fire Department platoon leader. But he noted some of the challenges in promoting water safety, too. “We want to try to prevent any incidents from happening here in the future.”

Police Chief Charles Phelps said officers patrol the area and know there is a lot of activity in the dock area.

“It has become a magnet for a lot of activity, and a lot of it is unsupervised,” he said.

Titterington said city officials talked with the Miami Valley Risk Management Association, the city insurance pool, about options. Last year, the advice was to do nothing different. But another look was requested because of the incidents and “growing concern due to the activity,” he said.

MVRMA was contacted again after the July 1 incident, and the revised recommendation was made.

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