Local law enforcement, water rescue personnel and San Joaquin County officials came together Wednesday to launch the 2012 season of the "Kids Don't Float" program at Stillman Magee Regional Park in Clements.
The event highlighted the combined effort of several agencies to promote safe recreation by providing life preservers for borrowed use to visitors enjoying the Mokelumne River.
Bill Ferrero of Mokelumne River Outfitters said that the program is a proven success, noting that while there were 66 rescues on the river in 2011, including 18 on Father's Day alone, the river has not claimed one life since the program's inception three years ago. Sgt. Carey Pehl with the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Boating Safety Unit also used the event to showcase non-river floatation devices that often get rafters into trouble. Floatation units like inner tubes or inflatable loungers are fine for pool use, but are not built for river recreation.
Excessive use of alcohol is also a contributing factor in many water rescues. The county Sheriff's Boating Safety Unit and the Clements Fire District patrol the Mokelumne from Stillman Magee to the Mokelumne River Day Use Area.
"Kids Don't Float" was conceived as a result of a tragic drowning on the river in April 2009. While the program is primarily intended for children, adult-size life preservers are also available for loaned use. The life preservers can be picked up and returned at both parks and at the Clements Fire Station, 18901 E. Highway 88, Clements. A brochure on the program is available on the San Joaquin County Parks and Recreation website.