Here's the good news: winter has released its grip on the Kenai Peninsula's roadways. Those mounds of snow and ice are receding, and street sweepers have begun the task of cleaning up the piles of sand and gravel left behind.
But, we have to follow that up with some sobering news: already this spring, we've reported on two accidents involving pedestrians being struck by vehicles. One involved a driver veering off the road and on to the bike path along Kalifornsky Beach Road on March 21. The other, involving a 7-year-old girl and a hit-and-run driver, occurred just this week and is under investigation by Alaska State Troopers.
We won't speculate here as to the causes of these incidents, but they do serve as a reminder that even though the weather is getting nicer, drivers need to remain cautious, alert and aware on Peninsula roads.
In fact, in the very near future we will be sharing our roads with many more drivers. People who have been staying home all winter are now getting out and about. There's open water on the Kenai River, which means anglers coming from other parts of Southcentral Alaska for that first rainbow trout of the season. And has anybody spotted their first out-of-state RV of the season?
With the return of milder temperatures and more daylight, we'll be sharing the road with more than just other cars and trucks. The most enthusiastic of motorcycle enthusiasts already have been out for a ride; as the weather improves, more are sure to follow. Keep an eye out for them.
People also are getting their bicycles out of winter storage in anticipation of dry, sand-free asphalt. It's an activity that has seen a surge in popularity on the Peninsula in the past few years; let's be sure to give bicyclists the same courtesy we'd expect to receive on the road. Likewise, we encourage folks heading out for a ride to follow reasonable safety precautions -- wear a helmet and bright, reflective clothing, and know and follow the rules of the road. Parents, before setting your kids loose in the neighborhood, give their bikes a good once-over. It wouldn't hurt to do a quick refresher on the safety rules many of them have learned at school bike safety rodeos.
There also will be more runners, joggers and walkers out enjoying the fresh air. Again, we urge basic common sense -- wear bright colors and be aware of your surroundings. If you're headed into the woods, be sure to let a reliable friend know where you're going and when you expect to return, just in case.
Speaking of our surroundings, now is a good time for a reminder that bears are waking up from their long winter naps. Bear tracks recently were spotted near Kenai National Wildlife Refuge headquaters in Soldotna. It's time to take down the bird feeders and clean up the yard of anything else that might attract a bear -- items such as trash not kept in bear-resistant containers or pet or livestock feed.
In the next few weeks, moose and caribou will start dropping their calves. The animals already are stressed from a long winter; let's do them a favor and make sure our dogs aren't running loose. It's illegal to harass wildlife.
And a final thought: if you're getting a watercraft -- fishing boat, canoe, kayak -- ready for the season, make sure your safety gear is in good working order. Don't wait until you're on the water to discover that a lifejacket buckle is broken or a radio doesn't work.
Spring is a great time to be active on the Kenai Peninsula. With warmer days and increasing daylight, we can't help but want to hit the road or trail or water. In the rush to get outside or on the road, don't overlook basic safety precautions and common sense. The consequences just aren't worth it.