Frosty temps chill spring break plans; deputies patrol sparse Crescent Beach

High Springs Community School student Libby Cook, 12, of High Springs, right, and Vanguard High School Student of Ocala, Autumn Blair, 16, huddle close together to stay warm during Alachua County's annual Spring Break at Crescent Beach on Tuesday.

Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 3:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 3:56 p.m.

CRESCENT BEACH — With unseasonably cold temperatures blanketing North Central Florida, Alachua County sheriff's deputies who traveled to this St. Johns County community as part of their annual spring break task force are, so far, patrolling a sparsely populated beach.

Tuesday morning, the sun was shining, but temperatures were in the 40s with cold winds whipping up the waves.

For the 13 years Deputy Brian Phillips has been on the force, Alachua County Public Schools' spring break has meant a mass teen exodus from Gainesville to Crescent Beach — so much so that a contingent of deputies has routinely teamed up with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office for what they term a "mutual aid agreement."

"It's a chance to come over and see our kids in a different light and help St. Johns deal with them," said Phillips, who noted that he spent his own spring breaks on the beach as a teenager from Gainesville High School. "We have all the same powers as St. Johns County (deputies) during this time, and we can deal with the kids and also make contacts home if parents need to come pick them up."

Because of the usually high number of teenagers at Crescent, the deputies travel annually from Alachua County to help control the influx of teens and try to minimize underage drinking or any other dangerous activity where possible.

But this year is different. With spring break weekend kicking off with rain and thunderstorms and then transitioning into a cold snap, the deputies said they expected to see as little as 3 percent of the normal turnout of high schoolers, which has numbered in the thousands in years past.

On Tuesday, a couple of fishermen approached Phillips about seeing teenagers doing "rooster tails" in the sand, a colloquial term for kicking up sand or dirt by driving fast and then quickly pressing the brakes.

Phillips approached the lone group of teens, who were idly sitting on the back of their truck by then. Sumner Barnard, 17, Jackson Ramer, 17, and Landon Everett, 16, traveled to the beach for spring break from Santa Fe High School.

"I've been counting down the days until break, but this hasn't been anything really with it being so cold," said Landon, who has been traveling back and forth to the beach between his baseball games in surrounding counties.

Sumner's parents, the official chaperones of the group, were not on the beach. Sumner said they had gone shopping — but not before laying down the ground rules.

"Don't let anyone in your truck that's gonna get you arrested. Don't get caught drinking, and don't do something stupid," Sumner echoed his mother, who he says spent her own spring breaks on the beach in the '80s.

"I do not want to know what my mom did on spring break in high school," he demurred.

In a later telephone interview, Marsha Barnard said these days, many of the parents she knows rent the condos their children use for the break and also hang out together as adults.

"We are usually on the beach with them," she said. "Obviously this year is a little different (because of the cold), but we are usually within about a half-mile. Close enough so if they need money," she laughed.

Marsha Barnard also said that with the cold weather, the teens are moving indoors to find ways to entertain themselves.

"We've heard rumors," she said. "Nothing that we have seen ... but we have heard of pretty big parties over the past few nights. I think that's one thing to be aware of with it being so cold, that the kids are going to find a way to entertain themselves."

On Monday night, one Alachua County teenager was arrested on a charge of possession of alcohol, and another was taken to the hospital with alcohol poisoning, according to an Alachua County Sheriff's Office source.

The deputies said they avoid placing the students under arrest if they don't have to and are more inclined to call parents for unruly teens.

Overnight lows on the beach are expected to be in the 30s until Thursday.

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