JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a 6-year-old boy drowned in a Lackawanna retention pond on Mother's Day, community members begged for a solution to prevent future tragedies.
Many suggested the city put a fence around the pond. City officials considered doing so and ran the numbers, but said fences are not the answer to the problem.
Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis said Friday that no matter how many fences or signs are put up, the real problem remains that children don't know how to swim.
The city is offering 350 eligible children free swim lessons at JaxParks pools throughout the city.
“No matter how many fences we put around the ponds and things like that, we still have an issue where young children can't swim, so we decided to push this effort,” Dennis said.
City officials said there are far too many children living in Jacksonville who don't know how to swim. They said teaching them what to do in the water is the answer to preventing drownings.
“I’m also looking at drafting legislation to put up signs, but if you have a 3-, 4-, or 5-year-old who can't read, what would a sign do?” Dennis said.
Police said Jamarion Lee was playing with his 8-year-old brother when he slipped into a retention pond off Nolan Street.
His brother ran for help, but by the time rescuers got to him, it was too late.
According to the city, certain design guidelines must be followed for pond fencing.
A fence would be required if the slope around the pond was greater than 1 foot for every 4 feet of distance. The pond where Jamarion drowned does not meet those guidelines, so it does not require a fence.
To avoid similar tragedies the city is encouraging families to take advantage of the SPLASH program that offers swim lessons to low income and military children.
To find out if a child is eligible for the free swimming lesson vouchers offered by the city, call 904-255-7927.