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Paul Wellman

Buoyed by Beer, Floatopia Survives on Land

Multiple Agencies Enforce Closure of Isla Vista Beaches; No Serious Incidents Reported


The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department enforced the closure of Isla Vista beaches on Saturday, April 10 to prevent a repeat of last year’s Floatopia event, during which over 12,000 college-aged students stormed the area’s tides and sands. The result this year was that the party migrated to Del Playa and surrounding streets for a day of spring-fevered debauchery.

In 2009, the annual event was inadequately planned, with no sanitation installations provided, and at the end of the day, the beach and the waters were polluted with cans, bottles, and trash. According to officials, the inordinately large amount of people fueled by liquor in such a small area created a constant threat of danger which resulted in 13 arrests, 78 citations, and 33 injuries, including two incidents of people falling off the bluffs.

This year, the unprecedented police measures purportedly proved effective in keeping things under control. With an estimated 8,000 partyers present, there were 31 arrests, 139 citations, and 12 hospital trips, but nobody fell off the bluffs and the beach was spared any reckless pollution. Sergeant Erik Raney of the Isla Vista Foot Patrol — who was on-scene during the event — said that first and foremost, his job was to make sure that the young adults stayed safe and kept the consumption of alcoholic beverages to reasonable proportions. He said that without sponsorship or controls, the party just gets out of hand.

According to a press release issued on Sunday by Sheriff’s Department spokesman Drew Sugars, 59 law enforcement personnel from four agencies (Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department, UCSB Police, California Highway Patrol, and Alcohol Beverage Control) descended on the area to keep the beach clear and enforce public safety.

There didn’t seem to be much of an impact on the level of fun and celebration — the festive fever was largely intact and unaffected, despite the higher number of arrests and citations. According to reveler Jimmy Ayres, “The party must go on — they can shut down the beach, but they can’t shut down the streets. As long as everyone’s got respect and everybody loves everybody, there should be no problem.” Another student, Benjamin Arnold, said that he was having a good time, but that he wished there were no police officers present. “How are we going to feel the effects of our actions if we’re prevented from carrying them through?”

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