The Memorial Day weekend heralds the unofficial start of summer and the tourism season. School's out and so is the sun. Fishing for kings in the Ninilchik River, the Anchor River and Deep Creek opens this weekend.
The ingredients are ripe for a fun-filled holiday, but they also are the perfect combination for disaster unless proper precautions are taken. Winter may be gone, but Alaska can still be a dangerous place. Whether our outdoor pleasures are on land or water, it's impossible to be too careful or too well-prepared.
While tragedy cannot always be avoided, every time we fail to be as prepared as we know we should be we push our luck.
Not to sound like an overprotective parent, but as peninsula residents and visitors flock to the outdoors to celebrate the beginning of summer we ask them to be careful. Far from putting a damper on recreational activities, safety can enhance our enjoyment of the outdoors. Not taking chances not only may save your life, but it may protect those around you. Just a few reminders:
Always make sure you and everyone else in your car wears a seat belt.
Don't drive if you're sick or overly tired or if you've been drinking.
Wear a life jacket whenever you are on the water; children should wear them if they are near the water. Put your life jacket on before getting into the boat. (Life jackets don't work if you don't wear them.)
Remember drinking and boating don't mix any better than drinking and driving.
Always use the buddy system -- in the water or in the woods.
Let someone know where you're going and when you plan to be back.
Dress for a change in weather.
Be prepared for the worst.
If you're a novice at what you're planning, get and heed the advice of experts. In fact, it wouldn't hurt to have an expert along on your weekend adventure.
File float plans and flight plans.
Avoid the dangers of being hooked while fishing. Protective eye wear and hats are recommended, as are big doses of common sense and courtesy.
Be wary of our wild neighbors. Moose and bears are busy protecting their young at this time of year. Give them as wide a berth as possible. If you carry a gun into the woods for protection, make sure you know how to use it.
Our intent isn't to make people paranoid about the outdoors. It is to remind everyone there are dangers on the peninsula that many of our Lower 48 neighbors never have to encounter. We want you to be aware. We want you to be prepared. We want you not to become some sad statistic.
Our hope is that next week we'll be reporting the peninsula enjoyed a tragedy-free Memorial Day weekend.
Now, go enjoy.
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