Piedmont Triad - North Carolina public safety agencies affirm they are increasing the presence of patrol officers on all Triad lakes this Fourth of July and the holiday weekend. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and Greensboro Parks and Recreation will be on duty both around and on the public lakes this weekend and will be conducting safety checks on public lake grounds.
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission officer Nathan Green said the agency will have dozens of patrol officers on the water conducting safety inspections on boats, looking for PFDs, fire extinguishers and boating registration.
Wildlife Resources also will be responding to calls from the Greensboro Parks and Recreation staff, who will be working primarily off shore to rent out boats, ensure boats are equipped with proper safety gear and double check that all children are wearing life jackets.
Green said during the summer holidays, there is a higher than normal frequency of drivers operating boats while impaired. Wildlife Resources has the authority, he said, to pull suspected drunk boaters over and conduct breathalyzer tests. He said in the month of June, alone, a handful of drivers already have been arrested for drunk driving on just one of the lakes.
Though state statues stipulate drivers of boats can have, in their systems, up to the legal limit of alcohol, no alcoholic beverages can be brought onto public lake property. Greensboro Parks and Recreation said fines can be issued to lake goers who break this rule.
State boating laws mandate anyone under the age of 26 must complete a boating education course before driving the boat. There must be enough life jackets on a boat for every person on board, and anyone under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket at all times while on a boat or other water vehicle.
Though both agencies said they are increasing staff presence at the lakes, neither said they have made any modifications to safety protocol since a pregnant woman and her son lost their lives in a High Rock Lake boating accident on Memorial Day.
July 4 is also Free Fishing Day, which has been happening statewide and annually on the holiday since 1994. Green said on that day, anyone can fish without a fishing license in designated areas on the public lakes. But, Wildlife Resources reminds anglers that other fishing regulations-size and creel limits and lure restrictions-still apply. With the exception of July 4, each angler 16 and older must have a fishing license to fish in any public water in North Carolina, including coastal waters.
The entire month of July is National Parks and Recreation month, and Greensboro Parks and Recreation's Brooks Mullane said the agency is stressing boating safety this year. The month is a time in which local Parks and Recreation agencies engage the community in activities that increase their awareness of the natural resources, leisure opportunities and recreational offerings in each area.