Caution needed with invitation to Kansas River
When the boat ramp at what is now De Soto Riverfest Park was first proposed, proponents said it would provide needed access to the Kansas River during emergency water rescues.
Those statements were verified Saturday when at least six different emergency response agencies used the boat ramp to launch vessels on the river. Unfortunately in this case, it appears the crews were unable to perform a rescue and their subsequent efforts have focused on recovery.
The same ramps along the river that are providing more access to the Kaw also make it more likely rescue operations will be needed. The river can be dangerous and certainly novices or even experienced canoeist, rafters or boaters shouldn't venture out on it without understanding its perils and without the proper safety gear. That is not to say it should be avoided as the same argument could be made for bicycling on most streets, roads and highways, outings on state and county lakes or any number of other recreational activities.
Nonetheless, the De Soto boat ramps can only be seen as the city's invitation to enjoy the Kansas River. It would seem appropriate then that the city through its parks and recreation department offer classes in river safety, perhaps in cooperation with Kansas Department of Parks and Wildlife and the Kansas Riverkeepers to offer boating safety classes. Those could include sessions in the classroom and on the river.
It would also seem appropriate for the city to place signage at the boat ramp like those at state lakes informing users of state requirements (life preservers although not required should be available for all boaters) and best practices.
It is not possible to save all from harm. But a word of caution might some day save a life if it persuaded someone to put on a life preserver rather than keeping it under the seat.