As College Beach Weekend approaches, city to use revamped approach

VIRGINIA BEACH — With memories of Virginia Beach’s infamous Greek Fest of 1989, the city has asked civic and community organizations over the past year to provide recommendations for how best to approach College Beach Weekend 2018 at the Oceanfront.

This year’s College Beach Weekend — April 27-29 — will be the sixth annual gathering that brought nearly 40,000 people to the Oceanfront in 2017.

Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera will discuss the city’s approach to managing crowds and traffic, which will include recommendations from Virginia Beach Vision’s “Oceanfront Task Force” report and the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission.

According to the report from Virginia Beach Vision, most visitors during College Beach Weekend are “young African-Americans creating, for some Oceanfront business owners and residents, an escalating resentment that is focused on the race of the participants and toward limiting solutions to ones that would prevent access to the Beach for a large community of citizens based on the behaviors of a very few.”

Related story: In wake of $300K college weekend bill, smaller North End party trashes beach, angers residents

In the face of some residents calling for a ban of CBW, Virginia Beach Vision and the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission were asked to provide recommendations to the city on how to best handle the disorganized influx of young people.

The event is not hosted or sanctioned by the city, said City Manager David Hansen, and the “incidents of violence, heavy traffic, litter and rude behavior have cast a negative view” over the event and the city’s tourism reputation.

Since College Beach Weekend began in 2013, the city has struggled to handle the massive crowds and behaviors resulting in arrests.

This year, the city formed a task force to formulate an approach to the safety, traffic and capacity concerns during College Beach Weekend. The task force is composed of members of the Human Rights Commission, Resort Advisory Commission, universities, Virginia Beach Restaurant Association, Virginia Beach Hotel Association and other civic and community groups.

The Human Rights Commission will implement is “Independent Observer Program.” Observers during the event will monitor the Oceanfront and provide feedback to authorities when necessary. Those interested in being independent observers during CBW can sign up online.

Cervera will brief City Council members on the task force’s recommendations and how the city plans to approach traffic management, crowds, what police can and cannot do, social media surveillance of the event and tailored messaging about the city’s expectations of visitors during the weekend.

Mayor Will Sessoms said College Beach Weekend can be a success if people come together to work out the problems.

“There needs to be more cooperation between everyone involved,” Sessoms said.

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