Changes planned for Tulare County park after series of water rescues

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When those in the South Valley need to cool off, the waters of the St. John's River can provide much needed relief from the heat and Cutler Park is the place to be. (KFSN)

Changes are planned for a South Valley park where five water rescues have happened within the last week.

When those in the South Valley need to cool off the waters of the St. John's River can provide much-needed relief from the heat, and Cutler Park, just outside of Visalia, is the place to be.

"And it's very calm and clean and for the better part, peaceful," resident Yolanda Gallegos said.

Gallegos and her four boys came to Cutler Park Friday to grill, swim, and relax.

They set up close to the water, but also keeping a distance from what's just a few feet downstream from what they saw last Thursday.

A man rescued another person who Gallegos says was sucked in by the current and a little while later another rescue, this one involving a parks employee.

A young lady got too close to the weir and started to go over into it and so he went in after her to help get her back out, along with some other folks that were here in the park," Tulare County Parks Division manager Neil Pilegard said.

The employee got too close to the edge, and also had to be saved by some park goers.

"They were pulling on him, and the guy was just leaning back because the current was trying to take him," Gallegos said.

There have been a handful of water rescues within the last week, all there at the weir.

Luckily, all have made it out of the water alive.

"Well they get too close to the weir and the sheet flow of water going over the top of it, and it draws them in," Pilegard said.

The water is strong and Pilegard says the area around the weir can be deceiving. Gallegos agrees, saying sometimes people don't put safety first.

"I think people just they misjudge it, and like I said a lot of people come here, and when you're barbecuing, you're swimming in the river, you want to have a good time, and you're drinking, and it looks very safe," she said.

But it's not, and because of the recent rescues, Pilegard says the parks division will now put up a sign restricting access within 100 feet of the weir.

Gallegos isn't sure if it will help, but she knows her kids aren't going anywhere near the weir and if she sees others getting too close, she'll warn them too.
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