A Times Editorial

Parade prescription

The drinking and urinating in public at Tampa's Gasparilla parade is out of control. But this is not solely the city's problem — and talk of moving the parade from Bayshore Boulevard makes no sense.

Residents of the Hyde Park neighborhood near Bayshore are understandably upset. Every year, hundreds of thousands of spectators tromp through the neighborhood to reach the parade route. Along the way, many throw beer cans in yards, trample landscaping and urinate on homes and in alleys. Some threaten homeowners who confront them.

Some residents have asked the city and event organizers to move the parade or reimburse them for the costs to protect their property. Neither is reasonable. Moving the route merely shunts the problem onto someone else. And reimbursing homeowners does nothing to curb the ugly behavior.

The root of the problem is that Gasparilla has become more of a moneymaking opportunity than a civic event. The city and event organizers can control some of the problems with a range of steps:

Start earlier. Moving the parade from early afternoon to morning would pre-empt many problems caused by spectators who drink alcohol throughout the day. The afternoon start merely accommodates a paying brunch and other private parties. It also acts as a bridge to evening events downtown. That schedule promotes daylong binge drinking.

Add toilets. People urinate on lawns and in alleys because there are not enough portable toilets along the parade route. Those that are along the route are not stationed where the hordes can easily access them.

Ban cars. Forcing people to take shuttles from nearby lots would allow the city to use dropoff points to distribute people along the parade route. It could reduce foot traffic in the neighborhoods and the number of people using the homes as garbage bins and bathrooms. And it would prevent spectators from hauling heavy loads of alcohol from their cars.

Tampa police do a reasonably good job with a delicate balancing act. They must enforce public order without making so many arrests that their officers are pulled off the streets. There is only so much the city can do. Gasparilla is a Tampa tradition, and Bayshore is a public park. Many neighborhoods near the stadium, Ybor City and east Hillsborough endure worse from Buccaneer home games and concerts. It was disappointing that a University of Tampa official tried to blame the city for the excessive drinking of UT students. The city and event organizers can do more, but all sides need to take responsibility for keeping Gasparilla safe, open and on the Bayshore.

Parade prescription 03/13/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 13, 2009 5:29pm]

    

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