Modesto

Spring is in the air, so prepare for outdoor activities

March 20 was the first day of the spring season. It signaled the end of short, dreary days, the coming of warmer weather and a sense of renewal. For most people, spring brings better moods and optimism. In technical terms, the first day of spring occurs at the exact moment of the vernal equinox -- when the sun passes directly over the equator.

Spring brings with it opportunities for picnics and recreation in local parks. The canals will start to fill for irrigation, lakes are already filling and plants and trees are starting to grow rapidly. Here are a few ideas for preparing for the seasonal transition.

Try to plan ahead for using the parks, especially for group events. Most cities require advance reservations and fees for use of picnic areas. Certain holidays and weekends tend to fill up fast, so make your reservations early. Be mindful of no-alcohol ordinances, especially. Littering, disturbing noise, and dogs without leashes are also a common problem that tends to destroy the family atmosphere at parks. The police will also be actively suppressing criminal gang activity.

Insofar as dogs are concerned, they can pose particularly big problems. Dogs running amok cause fear and potential danger. In addition to scaring children, they mark their territory and defecate in the parks. This is why it is prudent that dog owners be responsible and clean up after their pets.

Water activities also become more common in the springtime. But with the water, also comes the potential for drowning and deaths resulting from hypothermia. A disturbingly large number of kids growing up in this area do not know how to swim, despite the fact that canals crisscross our communities, there are numerous lakes and reservoirs in the area, there are rivers, sewer ponds and, of course, swimming pools. Please make sure your children receive swimming lessons. When in or around the water, make sure they are wearing life jackets -- especially when on a boat or if they cannot swim. Spring water temperatures are usually quite cold, owing to snow melt, generally cool temperatures and fewer hours of daylight. If someone falls into the water, they run the risk of falling victim to hypothermia and should seek medical treatment immediately.

Leaving kids and animals unattended in vehicles is also something to avoid. Even in sub-summer outside temperatures, the interior of a vehicle can heat quickly and children and pets can perish if exposed long enough. Another reason to avoid leaving kids unattended in a car is the threat of potential kidnap situations.

A few easy steps will make for a safer spring. I wish you all the best during the new season.

Art De Werk is the Chief of Public Safety in Ceres.

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