Be safe out there this weekend and summer

Posted: Friday, May 27, 2011

It's Memorial Day weekend, and here on the Kenai Peninsula, the kids are out of school, fish are in the rivers and it's time for us to get under way with our summer.

But before everyone hits the Peninsula's roads, trails, beaches and waterways, we ask that you take a moment to make sure you've taken the appropriate safety precautions. With the bright sun and pleasant weather, it's tempting to rush out to the next adventure. But midstream is not the time to find out that the life jackets are missing; miles from the trail head is not the place to discover that the first-aid kit has not been restocked.

First and foremost, with school out for the summer, kids are about and about, on bikes, skateboards, scooters, their own two feet. Parents, please make sure your kids are following safety rules. And when you're out driving, keep an extra eye out for those youngsters who might be a little too anxious to get going and forget to look both ways.

Plenty of families and cycling enthusiasts will be out enjoying the bike path along the Kenai Spur Highway and Kalifornsky Beach Road; make sure you watch for them at intersections and parking lot entrances. And for cyclists on the trail, remember to yield to pedestrians -- they have the right of way.

As anyone who has been here for a summer or two knows, the roads are about to get a lot busier. Not only has construction season ramped up, there are going to be more vehicles using them, with visitors from all over the state and, indeed, the rest of the world coming to explore the Kenai Peninsula. Patience and courtesy will go a long way toward getting everyone safely to their destination.

That destination, for many, will be somewhere by the water, where we will be fishing for salmon, halibut, trout and anything else that will rise to a fly or strike a lure. If you're headed to one of the salmon openings on the southern Peninsula, combat fishing rules apply -- wear glasses to protect your eyes from flying hooks and sinkers, and be cautious along the bank. You know it will be crowded; if you go, make sure you're prepared to enjoy the environment, and show some courtesy to your fellow anglers.

If you're headed out on the water, make sure your boat and gear are in good working order. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is ready to help; they'll be conducting vessel safety checks today at River and Sea Marine from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. There were too many drowning deaths on the Peninsula last summer, and already this year, the Coast Guard has had to recover bodies from Cook Inlet.

If you're camping for the weekend, be aware that the same conditions that make the weekend enjoyable for us have made the wildfire risk high. Camp cooking fires have not been banned, but the state Division of Forestry urges caution, and recommends that a fire not be ignited in dry, windy conditions.

Lastly, if you're out in the wilderness, which on the Peninsula is just out your front door, be aware that Alaska's larger animals are out and about too, and they're likely to be more ornery than usual. Bears have awakened from their long winter nap and are hungry. Moose and caribou are entering their calving seasons and will be extra aggressive in protecting their young. Keep your distance -- a photo isn't worth a trip to the emergency room.

In short: The holiday weekend should be a fun one. Taking a few moments to make sure you're prepared goes a long way toward ensuring it turns out that way.

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