The Orion

Record low turnout for Labor Day float

Christine Lee

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People stand on the Sacramento River bed Sunday as a California Sheriff Deputy elaborates on float safety for the annual Labor Day Float. Photo credit: John Domogma

Around 600 people attended the annual Labor Day float this weekend, a stark drop from 3,000 people last year.

Less than 400 people floated Sunday and by 2 p.m., the California Department of Parks and Recreation unit sent four out of seven of its officers home, said Kirk Coon, a Department of Parks and Recreation ranger. In previous years, policing efforts would continue from the morning until 9 p.m. or 10:30 p.m.

“All the agencies represented came to a consensus that some policing units can be sent home,” Coon said.

It’s a huge deal that some police were sent home early because the amount of budget spent on patrolling efforts were greatly reduced, he said.

“We look at the agency budget (and) those costs get exponential,” he said. “When we’re able to release them, the remaining budget anticipated for policing efforts can be used for other projects.”

The agencies patrolling the river Monday were the Glenn County police, Butte County police, California Department of Parks and Recreation and a few people from Cal Fire.

The alcohol ban is the reason there are not many people attending the float this year, said Jay Waananen, Butte County deputy sheriff. The drop in floaters means a drop in the amount of trash and number of fights the occur.

“In previous years, when we see fights in the crowd on ‘Beer Can’ beach, we have to go in, break the fight, arrest the person and quickly get him out of there,” he said. “There are a few of them who just want to ruin it for others.”

There are also less assaults this year, especially since “Beer Can” beach was completely empty, said Sgt. Matt Keeling from the Butte County Sheriff’s office.

“There are predators out there,” he said. “One year, there was a guy who was pretending to catch girls when they fell but he would grab them.”

This year there were:

  • No assaults
  • No altercations
  • No arrests
  • 10 rescues
  • 21 assists
  • Six citations – two for an expired vessel registration, one for no personal floatation device and three for the alcohol ban.
  • One medical – a Hamilton Fire Department officer slipped and fell on his leg while standing on a snag.

Throughout the weekend, agencies involved in policing the Sacramento River area include: California Department of Parks and Recreation, Glenn County Sheriff’s Office, Butte County Sheriff’s Office, Butte County Sheriff Search and Rescue, Hamilton City Fire Department, California Highway Patrol, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Cal Fire and Butte College campus police.

Christine Lee can be reached at: [email protected] or @leechris017 on Twitter.

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Record low turnout for Labor Day float