Juneau Jet Ski riders practice personal watercraft safety at Auke Lake

A familiar summer sound returned to Auke Lake this weekend as a group of Jet Ski riders took to the water.

The outing wasn’t just for fun.  The handful of riders were there to learn about personal watercraft safety.

The training is part of Juneau’s plan to prevent accidents like the one in 2012 when high school student Savannah Cayce was severely injured while being pulled on an inner tube by a Jet Ski on Auke Lake. Two days later, she died of her injuries.

The Juneau Assembly later rejected a proposal to ban motorized watercraft on the lake,  opting instead to improve signage and water markers, and provide educational opportunities.

That’s where Shawn Alladio comes in. Alladio founded the boating safety education company K38 Water Safety. She works with boater education groups worldwide to teach safe practices.

“I think the personal watercraft community needs to take responsibility for their behavior and make sure that they’re accountable in their preparation, in their boat operation and in the safety of their passengers. They really need to take that seriously.”

Alladio says banning watercraft doesn’t solve the problem, it just causes users to move to new areas and continue bad habits. She says boater education helps save lives.

“I think that any time you have a problem the best thing is to approach it with solutions rather than ignore it or create a ban. I don’t care what the activity is,” Alladio says. “Because if a community bans a product or an activity, those users are not going to stop engaging an activity that they’ve invested money and time into. They’re going to migrate to other areas. And if those problems are not addressed, those problems from those behaviors of those enthusiasts will migrate to other areas. So it’s not really a solution to create a ban. The solution is to create reasonable and capable solutions that can be integrated into the waterway use.”

After a day in the classroom going over rules and regulations, Alladio spent Sunday on the lake with the riders demonstrating good techniques.

Juneau resident Noreen Folkerts has been riding jet skis for years, mostly on the ocean. She and her husband Mike both work for the Coast Guard and joined in the training session.

“These small boats are so easy just to jump on and hit the gas. They give you a thrill. It’s a thrill to ride them and it’s a thrill to ride them fast,” Folkerts says. “And it’s not necessarily the boat that’s the issue, it’s the people that get behind the steering and the attitude of those people. So if we push the safety part of it, it’s just going to be a safer activity for everybody.”

The workshop was a partnership between the Juneau Department of Parks and Recreation, the Coast Guard and the American Watercraft Association.

Parks and Recreation Director Brent Fischer says the department will gather data throughout the summer on lake use. A report is due to the Juneau Assembly this fall when members will again discuss the management plan.

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