Officials encourage safe outdoor play

Floatation devices advised

Mirror file photo / Peyton and Jacob Pasley of Duncansville play with an inflatable toy while in the swimming area at Canoe Creek State Park.

Memorial Day recognizes the valor of service men and women who died in uniform preserving American freedoms. The three-day weekend also marks the start of summer fun with parades, picnics, camping, boating and swimming, and area state park officials remind area residents to play safely whether paddling a canoe or hiking a trail.

At Prince Gallitzin State Park, the campground is at capacity, said Tim Yeager, assistant manager. In addition to water recreation, campers can enjoy hiking — weather permitting — although conditions may be muddy due to recent rains.

When enjoying the outdoors, Yeager encourages people to protect themselves from ticks by wearing appropriate clothing, such as long pants or high socks, a spray to repel ticks and perform self-checks for ticks every few minutes.

Ticks are most active in spring and fall, but all of central Pennsylvania is experiencing a high infestation level.

Today, Prince Gallitzin and other state parks will participate in a “free fishing day” — a day when a fishing license is not required — to encourage new anglers to pick up a rod and reel. The next free fishing day is set for July 4.

Mirror file photo / A sign is posted on the beach of the Canoe Creek State Park swimming area.

For more information on state park activities in the region, visit www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks.

When enjoying water-related activities, Yeager and other area park officials stressed it is best to wear a personal flotation device.

Three occupants of a canoe suffered minor hypothermia when their boat overturned at Shawnee Lake last week, according to Andy St. John, assistant regional manager. The canoe was occupied by two men and a woman. One person was taken to UPMC Bedford Memorial for treatment, and two others were treated by medical personnel at the scene.

Two bystanders on the shore helped the trio to shore and then brought the canoe to shore, he said.

Pennsylvania Fish and Boating Commission regulations do not require PFDs for those over the age of 12 after April 30.

“We really strongly recommend that people wear a life jacket when on the water. It doesn’t do you any good if you’re not wearing it,” St. John said.

During 2018, capsizing was the most common reportable accident in the state at 17, followed by falls overboard at 12 and a collision with other vessels at 10. Federal and state laws require the reporting of accidents involving death, disappearance or injuries requiring medical treatment beyond first aid and property damage exceeding $2,000, according to the 2018 Pennsylvania Boating Accident Analysis, which shows 61 reported recreational boating accidents — a 13 percent decrease from 2017.

Thirteen recreational boating accidents resulted in 14 fatalities, slightly above the last 10-year average of 12.3 victims, the report stated. Only three of the 14 victims in 2018 were wearing a life jacket at the time of the incident that resulted in death. Seven of the 14 victims — 50 percent — were not wearing a life jacket at the time but did have them on board the boat.

When someone topples into the water unexpectedly, a mouthful of water causes panicked coughing where the person focuses solely on clearing their airway, said Heidi Mullendore, an environmental education specialist at Canoe Creek State Park. Mullendore teaches various water safety courses at the park.

“One gulp of water can incapacitate you or weaken you,” she said, also emphasizing the importance of wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest.

St. John emphasized that PFDs must be of the appropriate size and match boat occupants.

“If you realize you don’t have enough PFDs, we are happy to loan you a PFD,” St. John said. “Stop by a park office and we’ll help you get out safely. We want you to be safe.”

Area state parks offer many outdoor activities this weekend and throughout the summer and fall.

For a schedule of environmental education programs and water/boating safety programs, go to www.visitpa.

Recreational boating occurs along Pennsylvania’s 85,000 miles of rivers and streams and 735 miles of shoreline.