When describing their spring break experience, some college students may use the term ‘out of control’ — in a good way, of course. But some residents of South Padre Island, where thousands of these spring breakers come to party, are using those words in a sense that’s quite the opposite. Last month, when hundreds were arrested and several partiers died during the week-long event, South Padre locals started wondering whether the island’s bustling spring break economy would be able to survive if crime continues to grow, and young people continue to die.
“Many of the residents and our visitors and tourists are becoming a little bit more fearful for their personal safety and so this was one that was a little bit outside of what we’re used to,” says Shane Wilson, president of South Padre Island community group Property Owners Who Care (POWC). “If we don’t than it may become too dangerous for the college kids to come down and that would just be disastrous for the island.”
In order to downsize the chaos of the annual party, Wilson says he advocates making the climate of spring break more family-oriented. By doing this Wilson says the island would be able to retain the enormous profits for its businesses, while reducing crime.
“If you change the marketing of it for those parents and families that have kids that are in first grade through high school, they’re all on spring break – they want someplace to come,” Wilson says. “If we can change the marketing rather than targeting a lot of just the [college kids], then you’re gonna have the same amount of people.”
To promote these changes, Wilson says he’s trying to appeal to South Padre Island’s city council through the work of POWC.
“We would just like them to re-look at the ordinances and the permitting processes so that if there is something that does not promote the best interests of the island or the island’s image on a national and an international basis, they would have the opportunity or the teeth to say ‘no this is not something that we think is beneficial to our community, the island, our reputation so we’re gonna deny it,’” Wilson says.
Though Wilson would like to see the island move towards a rebranding of spring break, the effort is not without opposition. Many people who live in Cameron County, one of the poorest in the state, fear that any change in spring break culture could jeopardize the week upon which their livelihoods depend.
Wilson says he disagrees with these dissenters concerns.
“Every school in the entire state of Texas is closed during that week and those families are doing stuff,” Wilson says. “If the reputation was a little better for South Padre Island, than maybe some of those families would come down.”
Written by Morgan O’Hanlon.