4th of July crowds mostly happy, behaved

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Monday’s 4th of July celebration came at the end of a long weekend of pleasant weather, new Main Gate entry procedures, a wave of weekenders and guests, and high expectations for the fireworks show. The fireworks show did not disappoint, with many people around town and on social media calling it “the best ever!”

On Monday, waterfront beaches, large and small, were packed with easy-ups, chairs, coolers, water toys (and sometimes the backyard barbecue) as residents staked their claims early Monday morning for family members and friends to spend the day.

Aqua Lily Pads, iFloats and Maui Mats blanketed the water along shorelines and where boats tied up together, providing extra play space for frolicking youngsters. Kayaks and paddle boards shared waterways with speed boats and pontoons. Many homes off and on the water hosted parties.

The first notable gathering was the annual “Waller Family Bike Ride” on Longhorn Dr. Several hundred showed up for this annual (but not officially publicized) event early Monday morning. More golf carts participated this year than past years, according to photographer Mike Clary.

Not all of the day’s gatherings were so cheerful. Several fights were reported during the day at Holiday Harbor among young people in their late teens and early 20s. At one point in the mid-afternoon, five Riverside Sheriff’s vehicles could be seen at Sunset Beach.

One of the officers said 10 deputies were patrolling the lake that day – double what had been brought in last year. He told The Friday Flyer one of their biggest concerns was underage drinking and that a fight at another park had resulted in one person breaking an arm. Other witnesses reported fights breaking out at Holiday Harbor and subsequent arrests. There were no reports of issues at Sunset Beach or the Campground.

As The Friday Flyer visited each waterfront park by golf cart to take pictures and videos, staff found most people to be friendly and more than happy to gather for a picture when asked. If there was any unrest, they didn’t see it.

Social media complaints focused on the excessive drinking, use of drugs and profanity that was observed at parks and beaches. Many commentators placed the blame for these unacceptable activities on the influx of “outsiders” during the holiday weekend.

Two witnesses reported an incident following the fireworks show of reckless driving that resulted in an arrest. At Tuesday’s CLPOA Board meeting, Community Patrol Manager Jay Cregeen said several fights had broken out a Holiday Harbor and several arrests made; however, Securitas was not involved in those incidents.

An attempt to get an official police update prior to publication deadline was unsuccessful.

President Bruce Yarbrough said he wanted to thank staff and Securitas and all who worked hard over the weekend to make the 4th of July the success it was. “I thought we had a very good day,” he said. “We had a few problems, but basically I think it was a good day and most people enjoyed it. The fireworks were splendid again as usual.”

The holiday weekend began Friday with the opening of the new Main Gate and new procedures at the gate. As was explained at Tuesday’s meeting, some people began using the new RFID (radio-frequency identification) lane as if it were the same as the old decal lane. In spite of a sign stating that the arm would come down after each vehicle, some drivers thought they could roll through after the vehicle ahead of them. As a result, the arm did come down on some vehicles.

Within the first few hours of operation, one vehicle hit the arm and damaged the sensor so that the arm could no longer function. The lane had to be closed until repairs could be made after the holiday. Despite that setback, there were no reports of backup at the gates.

A flyer now is being distributed to explain the new entry system to drivers and to remind them to stop at the stop signs and wait for the green light to approach the guard shack. President Yarbrough explained that this procedure gives new security cameras time for license plate recognition and to stop gate runners. Residents have asked for better security at the gates and this new system is intended to help with that.

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Sharon Rice