Macon-Bibb enacting new water safety measures for Amerson River Park

New rules prohibit unaccompanied children from entering river and can result in fine of up to $500 fine for violations, no life jackets


Beau Cabell -The Telegraph

New water safety rules governing Amerson Water Park could go into effect in late March with Macon-Bibb County Commission approval.

A drowning last month at Amerson River Park prompted Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Al Tillman to propose new safety rules for those entering the Ocmulgee River from the park.

Commissioners voted 8 to 1 in committee to require all persons to wear a life jacket or personal flotation device when going into the river at the park, and bans anyone under 16 from getting into the water without adult supervision. The ordinance comes up for a final vote March 21.

Tillman said families spend months planning reunions and get togethers at the park, which could be forced to cancel at a moment’s notice if the park has to be closed to search for a possible drowning victim. The park closed for four days in late February as crews searched for the body of  22-year-old Jahvon Whitest, of Perry.

Commissioner Bill Howell, who voted against the measure, said he questioned how the rule could be enforced if people float down from upstream and exit to use the restroom at Amerson but don’t have a life jacket.

Howell mentioned that it’s hard to regulate everyone for the mistakes of a few. He also suggested the county close the river access when the current is too strong, similar to the way beaches do during riptides.

Under Tillman’s ordinance, violators could receive a verbal reprimand, be removed immediately from the county park or receive a notation of violation that carries a fine up up to $500.

Violators also may be sentenced to public service work for up to 60 days or be jailed for up to 50 days, at the discretion of the judge.

Cases would go before Macon-Bibb County Municipal Court, State Court of Bibb County and the magistrate court.

The agenda for Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole included approving new alcohol licenses for the upscale cigar lounge Churchill’s at 557 Cherry St. and the Daisy Tequila Bar in the old Ricky’s Taco Shop at 518 Cherry St.

Commissioners also heard an in-depth presentation on the county’s solar power projects with Cherry Street Energy in a partnership which began in 2016 under then mayor Robert Reichert, who does legal work for the company.

Reichert said the Chanin family’s business is a pioneer in the solar industry and put Macon in the forefront of alternative energy in the state.

Here are the highlights of agenda items considered Tuesday through tweets sent during the meeting.

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government news and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.