Your family and friends want to celebrate on a hot summer’s eve with the ability to cook outside and lounge around with cool drinks. About 20 of you head to a park but you all reject the areas with picnic tables and the like. Instead, you park in an area a bit distant from the river – because there is a ditch in the way built by the city (interestingly, only earlier that day) exactly to prevent vehicles from going to the riverbank. You then all lug your stuff to the riverbank through some foliage.
There, parents allow their children to play in the river in the visibly-moving current, despite the fact that not only can none of the children swim, but also none of the adults can. Unlike city parks with pools, there are no lifeguards, although a few other individuals are nearby. These non-swimmers bring a total of one life preserver, not worn by anybody but tossed out on the bank. And thus tragedy occurs when six youths drown.
Which brings up the question whether, in this instance, Shreveport bears any liability for the unfortunate event? It did occur offshore city property, within city boundaries, in an area not totally barricaded to prevent people from access.
But really to answer this, a question about whether common sense applies anymore must be addressed. Not only was the area difficult to reach, the city demonstrated there was hazard ahead by building the ditch. If something is relatively safe, it ought not to be difficult to access. And there’s little the city can do to tell people that if they can’t swim they shouldn’t be near enough any water to fall into it, no matter how shallow it might appear. Nor should it have to provide safety personnel on duty at every potentially hazardous spot that determined members of the public, despite the difficulty of getting to these places, might reach. To barricade the area would deny those who can swim, at their own risk, fishermen, etc. the use of this public property.
At best, Shreveport should put up some signs at various intervals in Hamel Park along the Red River stating there are no lifeguards present and that people swim at their own risk. But you just can’t legislate common sense, and to hold the state responsible for that aspects of our lives is the ultimate invitation for the institution of a nanny state that would strip us all of our autonomy as human beings. With freedom to act as we choose, we, not the state nor anything else, bear responsibility for our actions.