'I do think it's time,' Livingston Parish president kick-starts discussion on possible river tubing regulations
LIVINGSTON PARISH - After two tubing deaths and more than two dozen rescues on the Amite River this summer, Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks has officially asked the parish's ordinance committee to craft a set of regulations for the popular activity.
"I don't think it's about stopping the activity," Ricks said. "But, I do think it's time that we look at possibly putting some safety things in place that could prevent, possibly, hopefully, prayerfully, these tragic things from happening in the future."
Currently, there is no ordinance in place to regulate tubing businesses or require safety measures in the parish.
As calls for guidelines have increased, Ricks has expressed a willingness to put something on the books regulating the activity while also questioning how much authority he or the parish may have in this situation.
"He does not have an occupation license with us, so there's nothing that gives me any legal bounds to go in and do anything with him," Ricks told WBRZ last month during an interview discussing recent incidents involving Tiki Tubing.
During a virtual council meeting Thursday, Ricks spitballed some ideas for the committee to consider, including higher grade life vests, a monitoring system along the river, and strict guidelines for younger tubers.
Some council members endorsed Rick's recommendation to require type 3 life vests for tubers.
"There is still no education," Hilliard said. There [are] still no safety protocols in place. Certified life vests, yes. But definitely inform the consumers prior to entering the water the dangers of the water, the depth of the water, the accidents that have transpired. I just do not think we were given a fair opportunity to choose on that day. Yes, I'm an adult. My husband, my children are adults. But we were brought into this beautiful, painted picture of a fun-filled day for a family. That's not what we got."
Also addressing the council Thursday was Keith's twin sister, Kim Hilliard-Bangura. She supports the measures Ricks detailed but wants more. She believes before tubers hastily sign on the dotted line, some sort of educational video or demonstration on what can happen once in the water is necessary.
"Your community should be visited," Hilliard-Bangura said. "I think it is beautiful. I love it, love it down there. But people coming there should also feel a sense of safety. When they've been instructed on the dangers of that river, and then they sign the waiver and hop on that river, and fall off or get off or drink, then you all are qualified to say, 'why were you there doing what you were doing.'"
Hilliard-Bangura has not called for the business or industry to be shut down, something Ricks has made clear he does not support. She and her sister-in-law are instead calling on leaders to end the status quo and hold the operators accountable.
The Livingston Parish Ordinance Committee will again meet virtually August 31 at 6 p.m. to continue discussing potential tubing regulations.
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