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People float down the Amite River to their destination of Tiki Tubing, Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Livingston Parish.

The Livingston Parish Council took the next step in implementing new river safety rules after two patrons of a popular watersports company died this summer and dozens more were rescued while riding inner-tubes down the Amite River. 

Members of the parish's ordinance committee introduced the tentative rules Thursday evening following weeks of deliberation about the most effective way to keep people safe without infringing on their personal liberty.

For instance, business owners will be required to provide life jackets for patrons engaging in water activities, but the patrons will not be required to wear them. 

After the public has the opportunity to weigh in on the ordinance at a future meeting, council members will approve or reject the requirements. 

The tragedies this summer have centered on Denham Springs-based company, Tiki Tubing.

Family members of Keith Hilliard, who drowned on Father's Day weekend after paying the company for the inner-tubing experience, have been vocal advocates urging the council to clamp down on tubing in the Amite.

While Parish President Layton Ricks was initially hesitant to regulate tubing — particularly a specific company — his position eventually softened. 

"I do think it’s time, because of the number of things that happened, that we put things in place," he said in August.

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The rules will not regulate tubing so much as water activities, council members were careful to clarify.

Other measures in the ordinance include mandating water safety videos and commanding businesses to erect signs along the stretches of any waterway their company uses. The signs will help emergency services pinpoint anyone in distress on the river. 

"I felt like, to start with … a whole lot of data out there and to develop such a well-written ordinance that will help protect future people who tube down that river … I applaud you for that," District 9 Councilman Shane Mack said. "That last meeting was so sincere. Everyone was really trying to do what they could to protect the people."

Other council items included moving trick-or-treating from Halloween night on Oct. 31 to  6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 30 for the unincorporated areas of the parish. A "trunk-or-treat" event will be held simultaneously at South Park located on Vincent Road in Denham Springs.

District 1 Councilman Jeff Ard adopted a solemn tone toward the end of the meeting while discussing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Ard announced two friends in their 50s died of the virus recently and wanted to remind the public to continue to be careful. 

"This thing is still real. Everybody still needs to take precautions," he said. "I’m going to two funerals this weekend. … People need to not let their guard down. Protect yourself."


Email Jacqueline DeRobertis at jderobertis@theadvocate.com