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Clearwater City Council to revisit ban on beach games

Swimmers enjoy the waves while one enjoys throwing a ball.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Swimmers enjoy the waves while one enjoys throwing a ball.

CLEARWATER — After Bay News 9 ran a segment on Clearwater's ban on public ball throwing, it was picked up on CNN Headline News.

"My relatives in New Jersey called and said they saw me on TV," said City Council member George Cretekos, who pushed to have the law changed.

Apparently, the 24-hour news channel thought it odd that a city would make it illegal to toss a beach ball on its celebrated white beaches.

Now the ordinance that garnered national attention will be bounced around again for discussion.

The city staff has come up with a proposed amendment that would make casual ball and Frisbee throwing at parks and beaches legal as long as it doesn't create a safety concern.

It will be discussed at a Monday morning workshop and is scheduled for a first reading at Thursday's City Council meeting.

"I'm excited," Cretekos said. "I'm confident we will get this passed and I appreciate my fellow council members working with me on this."

It wasn't always that way.

After coming across Section 22.49 (Organized activities and potentially dangerous games) in Clearwater's code of ordinances last summer, Cretekos realized that he'd be a lawbreaker if he tossed a ball with his godson in the park.

It reads: "No person or persons shall engage in rough or potentially dangerous activity such as football, baseball, softball, horseshoes, tennis, volleyball, badminton, or any other organized activity involving thrown or otherwise propelled objects such as balls, stones, arrows, javelins, shuttlecocks, Frisbees, model aircraft or roller skates on any public bathing beach or park property except in areas set aside for that purpose."

He could understand the javelins and arrows, but badminton birdies? So he brought it to the attention of the City Council several times.

His peers resisted change, fearing possible injuries to the public if throwers were reckless or inattentive.

The amendment up for discussion at the 9 a.m. Monday work session states: "Informal activities involving the casual throwing of balls, including but not limited to footballs, baseballs, tennis balls, volleyballs, and shuttlecocks or Frisbees shall be permitted unless such activity creates a threat of physical injury to any person."

It adds skateboards and in-line skates to the list of "rough or potentially dangerous informal" activities allowed only in designated areas.

Asked what he thought about the proposed amendment, council member Paul Gibson said it's a challenge to find a way to "protect the public and at the same time allow them to enjoy our parks and beaches."

He said he worries about Frisbees. "When you throw a Frisbee, your eye is on the Frisbee and not on other people."

And the idea of throwing baseballs not on designated athletic fields also bothers him.

"Getting hit with a beach ball is one thing. Getting hit by a hard baseball is something else," he said.

Still, he added, "We'll work this out and come up with something reasonable."

In the meantime, Cretekos is looking forward to teaching his 6-year-old godson, Zachary Dermody, how to throw a football on Clearwater Beach.

"I've been promising we'd do it," Cretekos said, "as soon as we could get the ordinance changed."

What's next

City Council work session

When: 9 a.m. Monday.

Where: Council chambers, City Hall, 112 S Osceola Ave.

Council meeting

When: 6 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Council chambers, City Hall, 112 S Osceola Ave.

Clearwater City Council to revisit ban on beach games 08/15/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 15, 2009 3:46pm]
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