RiverWatch works to prevent tragedies at Riverside Park - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

RiverWatch works to prevent tragedies at Riverside Park

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LA CROSSE, WI (WXOW)—Eight young men drowned in the Mississippi River in La Crosse between 1997 to 2006.

To help prevent tragedies like this from happening again, a group of college students volunteer their time to patrol Riverside Park.

Since Operation RiverWatch began patrolling in 2006, there haven't been any drownings in the Riverside Park area.

They do their job with a vest, flashlight and a walkie talkie.

"As we're getting down here you always have to keep your head on a swivel just in case someone enters the park," Matt Krueger, Operation RiverWatch Director said.

The park closes at 11 p.m.  No one should be here.

"Whether it's the lights that attract people down here," Krueger said. "Whether its gravity, it's just easier to walk down hill."

Thursday was a quiet night. That's not always the case.  Last year volunteers stopped nearly 1,300 people.

"I would say it's probably the influence of alcohol," Kevin Weis, Operation RiverWatch Public Relations said. "They're not able to think clearly. Sometimes they don't even know where they're going."

The river is high, spilling over on to the walk way. For two hours they see nothing but a barge.  Even on an uneventful night, volunteers say they have to be here.

"We can't really control the way people drink," Weis said. "As far as we know this is the best thing we can do to prevent tragedies."

But some think there's a better way.

"As a community we really need to take a step back and look at that every time we go out and have some fun we need to be responsible," Krueger said.

Until everyone gets it, they'll be here, pacing back and forth.

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