Media was there, but no citizens in opposition of the proposed no swimming ordinance at the boat ramp on Texas 87 in Bridge City were present at the public hearing in Orange, Monday. Last week, it was proposed to restrict swimming within 500 feet of the boat ramp to remedy a situation of swimmers not respecting the safety issue presented by boaters trying to launch or load their boats at the popular ramp. With no ordinance in place, swimmers often felt they had just as much right being there as the boaters. It frequently resulted in shouting matches with swimmers between the ages of 18-26.

Commissioner Precinct 3 John Banken asked who actually owned the boat ramp.

Douglas Manning said the boat ramp is owned by Orange County and Bridge City does not have jurisdiction over it. It was built by the Sabine River Authority and is maintained by TxDOT and the SBA.

Banken, County Commissioner Precinct 1 David Dubose and boater John Gothia spent time earlier that day at the ramp, accessing the situation and discussing it.

Since there is not a law that says the distance has to be set at any particular amount it was determined that a radius of 50 feet would actually take care of the situation protecting boaters and swimmers from a potentially tragic situation.

“The intention is not to actually stop the people swimming in Cow Bayou,” said Commissioner John Banken.

“I think that initially we talked about 500 feet because we wanted to deter people from swimming in and around that dilapidated bridge,” said Manning. “Not only because the bridge itself, is not only unsafe, but because of the nonorganic matter that has been sunk in and around that bridge over the years that could cause a hazard to swimmers as well. At the end of the day it’s up to the commissioners to determine the distance.”

When they actually applied to a map where 500 feet would cover, County Judge Carl Thibodeaux noted it would extend inland into Waterwood and would regulate the cuts that go in behind Waterwood. which is not something they intended to do. He said 500 feet almost reaches the span bridge.

“It’s a shame we have to do this in the first place,” said Thibodeaux.

“They don’t realize the danger,” said Gothia.

Boat traffic has increased by a significant amount at all the area boat ramps.

Commissioners unanimously passed the ordinance at 50 feet from the center of the boat ramp. It was signed by Judge Thibodeaux. Now it will take a couple of weeks to go through the process before authorities start writing tickets for those not obeying the ordinance.

Signs will be put up on land at the boat ramp. Commissioners will request Sabine River Authority to place buoys in the water reflecting the 50 feet radius no swimming area.

“You always have to be careful when the government goes in to regulate this kind of conduct,” said Manning.

“A number of these swimmers are unsupervised young people or children under the age of 18, so there is a little bit more of a compelling state interest to regulate their behavior or conduct in or around the boat ramp because they are children, they’re not adults.”

 Online Auction

Commissioners also accepted the list of items for the surplus online auction that is available for online viewing today, June 19. The start date for online bidding is Wednesday, June 26. Bidding closes at 10 a.m. CST, Tuesday, July 9, 2013.

Miscellaneous items include: vehicles, heavy equipment, office furniture, computers, and more.

A detailed list of items will be available with instructions for registration at

Any questions regarding this sale should be directed to the Orange County Purchasing Department at 409-882-7900. It is legal for any county employee to bid and/or win items listed in the auction.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.