COLORADO— Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, and the weekend when Coloradans and visitors begin to kick off their summer adventures and Live Life Outside. With seasoned recreationists and newcomers alike heading into the outdoors, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds everyone that enjoying our wealth of outdoor activities also comes with responsibilities.
“This weekend is the real start to the summer season, and one of the best parts of working at CPW is seeing everyone getting outside to hike, fish, hunt, boat and camp,” said Michelle Seubert, park manager at Barr Lake State Park. “But it’s really important that as people get ready for outdoor fun, they keep safety in mind. As we kick off the season, it’s the perfect time to check out rules and regulations and be sure we all have the proper equipment for our favorite activities. Being prepared is such a big part of having a safe and fun summer.”
Below are some rules and tips for safely enjoying our state this summer.
Boating requirements and safety:
• In Colorado, anyone operating a motorboat, including a personal watercraft or sailboat, must be at least 16 years old. However, youths 14 and 15 years of age can operate a motorboat, jet ski or sailboat if they successfully complete the state’s Boating Safety Course. The course is offered throughout the state and is open to adults as well as teens; though adults are not required to take the course, doing so may qualify owners for a discount on boat insurance.
• US Coast Guard-approved safety equipment is required on all boats. Though some activities such as water skiing require additional equipment, every boat must minimally have a personal flotation device for every person on board. Our Boating Regulations brochure details the specific requirements for all boating and PWC activities in Colorado.
• Never operate any watercraft while under the influence. Drinking and boating can be just as dangerous, if not more so, than drinking and driving. Not only will operators experience the negative effects on judgment, vision, balance, coordination and reaction times associated with alcohol consumption, but they may also be affected by “Boater’s Hypnosis.” Boater’s hypnosis, or boater’s fatigue, is caused by exposure to noise, vibration, sun, glare, wind and motion experienced on the water. In Colorado, a BUI can be punishable by a year in jail, a loss of boating privileges for three months, fines up to $1000 and 96 hours of community service.
• Boat owners must participate in mandatory state-certified boat inspections to help prevent the spread of zebra and quagga mussels and other aquatic nuisance species (ANS) in Colorado lakes and reservoirs. Boat owners are also required to purchase the ANS Stamp and operators must retain the proof of purchase (electronic or printed receipt) on his or her person, the motorboat or sailboat, when operating the vessel. Invasive aquatic nuisance species are a serious threat to Colorado waters, negatively affecting the food chain and endangering key infrastructures. To help prevent the spread of zebra and quagga mussels, boaters should remember to follow these steps: Clean, Drain, Dry.
Living with wildlife:
• Colorado is fortunate to count over 900 species of wildlife among our residents. Respecting wildlife while enjoying our state’s natural treasures is all of our responsibility! Most dangerous encounters occur because people fail to leave wild animals alone. Wildlife should not be harassed, captured, domesticated or fed. Intentional or inadvertent feeding is the major cause of most wildlife problems, not to mention it is illegal to feed deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pronghorn, bears and elk in Colorado.
• Spring and early summer is the season for young wildlife and it’s important to remember that wildlife does not operate the same way domesticated animals do. They frequently leave their young to find food sources or even distract predators. If you see a young animal alone, never try to take matters into your own hands - it is best to let nature take its course without human intervention. If an animal is clearly injured or remains alone for more than 24 hours, then call your nearest CPW office.
• Remember when planning hiking and camping trips that much of the state is also bear country. Before heading out for your adventures, brush up on how to enjoy the outdoors in bear country without unintentionally creating problems or potential conflicts with these amazing animals. Black bears are not naturally aggressive with humans, but they are strongly motivated by food, garbage and anything else that smells like a meal. Once they learn to find an easy meal at a campsite or in a car, they can damage property or even injure humans when returning to find additional food.
Trails for all:
• Review and respect trail signage. Many multi-use trails have right-of-way indicators, as well as displaying alternating days or directions for different types of traffic; obeying the signs and rules make the trails safer for everyone. Additionally, wildlife warnings may be posted at trailheads or online, so ensure you are prepared with water, the right clothing and equipment, and learn about closures before you go.
• Follow the rules and the law by keeping your dogs safe and secure. Dogs should be kept on a 6’ or shorter leash unless in a specified off-leash area. This keeps the dog on the trail, close to its owner and away from inadvertent wildlife encounters. If you bring your dog camping or hiking, follow posted signs about where they are - and are not - allowed to walk and swim. Always bring appropriate waste bags to pick up dog waste and carry it out with you in case a trash can is not located nearby.
• If using motorized vehicles on our state’s trails, remember that off-highway vehicles must be registered and/or permitted with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Off-highway vehicles (OHVs) include motorcycles, dirt bikes, three-wheelers, ATVs, and dune buggies that are operated on public land or trails in Colorado. As with all motorized vehicles, do not operate under the influence!
“We had great snow this winter, so we are expecting high water levels across the state. This is really good news in a lot of ways, but could create some hazardous conditions,” said Seubert. “Make sure to check in on local water conditions, fire bans, wildlife closures and other issues that might affect your plans before heading out on your adventures this summer. We hope to see you out there, safely enjoying your summer while you live life outside.”
To learn more about the wide variety of summer activities in the Centennial State, visit cpw.state.co.us.