Be prepared: Children, animal tourists are here

Posted: Friday, April 29, 2005

Compared to most, this year's breakup has been a fairly smooth transition for the central Kenai Peninsula.

The slow freeze-thaw process allowed area dirt roads to pretty much skip the mud stage altogether — well almost.

Though not welcome at first, the rain did its part to wash away a lot of dirt and dust and, lo and behold, the grass is turning green and the trees are starting to shows signs of regeneration.

In Alaska speak, that means no more cabin fever.

Those out and about of late certainly have noticed the crowded bike paths, trails and roads, and Mother Nature is happy to oblige with temperatures in the 60s and even low 70s.

What's not to like?

After a winter filled with plenty of cold and ice, it's good to get out of the house and look for signs of life, crank up the tunes on the radio or CD and cruise down the road with the window down.

But there is a down side. They are called distractions.

It's easy to get a little sidetracked when the weather makes that turn toward summer, but it's not good when you're behind the wheel.

Last week, two children were hit by vehicles as they rode their bikes. One was an 11-year-old girl in Soldotna, the other a 6-year-old boy in Kenai.

In Soldotna, the child was riding past the exit of the post office. In Kenai, the child was hit at a stop sign.

Luckily, both were treated at the hospital and released. It could have been so much worse.

As drivers, we need to remember that even though school's still in session, the kids are eager for the bell to ring so they can get out and play.

Parents, remind your kids to be careful — look both ways when they cross the street, make eye contact with the driver, don't dart out into traffic. Make them visible to drivers.

We all remember how invincible we were as children — or how we thought we were. Some things never change. Kids still believe they're invincible.

Drivers, keep an eye out for children, slow down in neighborhoods, be ready for the unexpected.

With all the extra daylight, it's easy to expect we'll see what's coming and have plenty of time to stop. However, we know that's not always the case. Accidents happen.

And it isn't just those on bikes or kids, for that matter. There's in-line skates, skateboards, joggers, dogs, moose ... . The list goes on.

We also need to be ready for tourists.

Although rising gasoline costs make summer travel predictions hard to forecast, chances are pretty good we'll still see our share of rental cars, campers and RVs on the peninsula. That means traffic will crawl and often stop quickly to take a look at an honest-to-goodness Alaska moose, caribou or even bear.

Those stops tend to come without warning.

Yes, we'll probably still get impatient and annoyed from time to time. It's human nature. But those of us who see the wildlife every day sometimes forget how amazing these creatures are to those who rarely see or have never seen them. That's why the tourists come here.

And remember that patience also will be needed when you cross the Kenai River bridge in Soldotna. With the construction of a temporary bridge, traffic will be halted from time to time, although interruptions are expected to be limited.

It may be additional time on your watch right now to get here and there, but the end result will be well worth it.

Again, expect the unexpected. Keep a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead of you. Tourists aren't always tugging a 25-foot camper, and you never know, you may get the chance to see something amazing, as well.

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