Columbus Day Weekend 2011
Contact: Gary Bremen, 305-230-1144, x007
Contact: Matt Johnson, 305-230-1144, x050
HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA - In anticipation of large crowds of boaters in Biscayne National Park over the upcoming Columbus Day Weekend, October 7 - 10, 2011, over 100 law enforcement and emergency medical services personnel from the National Park Service and partner agencies (including US Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Miami-Dade Police Department, and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue) will be on the water and at marinas to step up efforts to protect park resources and promote visitor safety.
"We want everyone to have a safe and sane weekend." states Mark Lewis, Biscayne National Park Superintendent. "Boating safety is about more than just equipment…it's about behavior and responsibility as well." Safety inspections and BUI (Boating Under the Influence) checks at public boat ramps and will be conducted throughout the weekend. Unfortunately, BUIs have resulted in several deaths, numerous injuries and scores of arrests and fines over past Columbus Day Weekends. Intoxilizers that measure blood alcohol levels will once again be used as an aid to ensuring a safe weekend for all. ""In an effort to save lives and avoid property and resource damage, those who operate vessels while intoxicated will be arrested and taken to jail," warned Wayne Rybeck, Incident Commander for the traditionally raucous event.
A few common sense safety tips to follow include:
As in past years, special regulations will be in effect over the weekend:
Boat groundings are a particular problem during this weekend because of the large numbers of boaters who are unfamiliar with operating their boats in the park's extremely shallow waters. Park staff will be patrolling the Featherbed Banks redirecting boaters away from this shallow area in an effort to prevent groundings and to protect fragile seagrass beds and the marine life they support. Strobe lights will mark some of these areas after sunset.
Visitors are encouraged to follow the park on Twitter at twitter.com/BiscayneNPS using the #ColumbusDay hashtag to send and receive alerts about the event. Information will also be posted on the park's Facebook page at facebook.com/Biscayne NPS. Further details and information regarding the Columbus Day Weekend in Biscayne National Park are available by clicking on the "Columbus Day" Quicklink on the park's homepage at www.nps.gov/bisc/. Information on the 57th Annual Columbus Day Regatta, a sailboat race happening outside of Biscayne National Park, can be found at www.columbusdayregatta.net/