PUEBLO — As Lake Pueblo State Park begins to see more visitors and boaters for the 4th of July weekend, Colorado Parks and Wildlife making sure the community is staying safe and sober on the water.
The agency will be increasing patrols for the holiday weekend, for their annual campaign, Operation Dry Water.
"Safety is the main message and don't put others in danger," said Joseph Portteus, a park ranger for Colorado Parks and Wildlife for about 11 years.
Portteus is among those that will be making rounds at Lake Pueblo State Park during the weekend.
"We look specifically for under the influence boaters, because boating under the influence is dangerous and it's a safety concern and its something we look for particularly on this weekend," said Porteeus. "Boating can be inherently a little bit more dangerous then driving. You have factors like weather and unseen hazards in the lake. You have to really pay attention and alcohol impairs your ability to do that."
Operation Dry Water is a nationwide effort to reduce the number of boating accidents and deaths related to alcohol and drug use.
"Last year, we had unprecedented visitations, so any time you get more people, there's going to be more of everything, good and bad," said Portteus. "We did see increased violations, increased accidents and unfortunately saw increased fatalities as well."
Last year, there were six deadly boating accidents in Pueblo, five which happened on the water.
Portteus says minor violations like making a wake in a 'no wake' zone is a reason to stop you and conduct an investigation.
"Then we keep going from our investigation from there, and if we signs of impairment or beer cans all over the boat, then we may have to take that stop a little further," said Portteus.
A general rule of thumb is that one drink on the land is the same as three drinks on the water. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will be patrolling during the weekend and through Monday.
"It's going to be really busy. There is going to be a lot of boats, so you have to keep your head on a swivel and look at around what might be ahead of you," said Frank Gray, a boater who's enjoying the holiday weekend with his family. "It's good to have them (park rangers) around. They're out here making sure people, at the end of the day, just go home safe and un-injured, and that's their job."
Many lakes in Colorado are public property, so open display of marijuana is also illegal.
Anyone found boating and drinking or using marijuana could face fines or have their boating privileges revoked.