March 8, 2008, 5:48PM
Fewer spring breakers visiting border towns

Associated Press

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Michigan State senior Paul Bonenberger avoided temptation during this island's season for wild college revelry by leaving his passport at home.

"I've heard tons of (stuff) about the border," said Bonenberger, 21, two beers in hand and surrounded by hundreds of Midwestern spring breakers on the beach. "I've heard it's unsafe. I'm not about the border anymore, it's not worth the risk."

Once, most South Padre spring breakers visited nearby Matamoros, Mexico, for the touted "Two Nation Vacation."

But news of gunbattles between soldiers and drug cartels in Mexican border cities this winter appears to have reached even the frigid campuses of the upper Midwest. And although tourists have not been targeted, students and tourism officials on both sides of the border say spring breakers are keeping their toes in U.S. sand this year.

The young, tan masses have not been surveyed lately, but Dan Quandt, executive director of the island's convention and visitors' bureau, said "we have noticed over the past few years a decline in the number of students going to Matamoros."

Matamoros and other border cities are now patrolled by Mexican soldiers.

Debra Fassold, who manages a cross-border shuttle service, said she used to ferry several hundred spring breakers daily and now she gets only a few dozen. She has canceled night trips.

Interviews with those partying on South Padre Island revealed that sketchy reports of violence and danger across the border were the most common reason, but the tighter identification requirement for returning to the United States this year took some of the easy fun out of a cross-border jaunt. ... 02906.html