TWRA officers stopped 275 kayakers on the Collins River and issued 15 citations during what was a hectic Memorial Day weekend on the water.
Most of the citations were for not having life jackets, according to TWRA officer Pete Geesling.
“That river has gotten really popular for kayakers over the past five years,” said Geesling, who indicated patrols were set up in the area near the VFW. “There were a lot of people out and it was perfect weather. I don’t want to write citations, but I want people to be safe. To be out and have a presence on the water, that keeps safety on people’s minds. If people want to complain on Facebook about us being out there, I’m fine with that. That lets even more people know and I’m fine being the bad guy if it helps keep people safe.”
In addition to life jacket infractions, TWRA officers also look for littering and illegal drug use on the waterways.
“I live in McMinnville too so I want people to clean up after themselves,” said Geesling. “Most of our local residents will have a trash bag and they will even pick up after other people, but not everyone will. I love to get litterers because that’s our waterway.”
Geesling said adults over 21 are free to consume alcohol while kayaking because the boat is not a motorized vehicle. He said even though drinking is permissible, it should be done responsibly because there is the chance for injury or death.
“A lot of people will say, ‘I can see the bottom of the river. What’s the big deal?’” said Geesling. “Well you can still drown. We’ve had one death on that river and I hope that’s all we ever have. The water is up and it’s swift in spots. We watched a few people get turned over this weekend.”
As for activity around Rock Island State Park, Geesling described it as a very busy weekend. He said boaters were out so the TWRA was out too.
“We try to maintain as big a presence as possible,” said Geesling. “It definitely helps. We want everyone to have fun, but when it goes bad, it usually goes bad pretty quickly and we want to prevent that.”
He said boaters can be cited with reckless operation if they are operating their boat in an unsafe manner and putting the safety of others at risk, even if they are doing so at slow speeds.