July 13, 2014

Editorial: Efforts to prevent future tragedies

When children die in tragic ways, people want to find someone to blame.

The kids should have known better, they say. The parents should have stopped them. The government should have protected them.

But, actually, it might be that no one wants to believe that, with no warning at all, they could lose something as irreplaceable as a child.

Over the years, too many young people have been swept away by angry North Country rivers. Left behind are families and friends forever marked by unbearable sadness.

Teenagers rarely acknowledge danger, despite the most fervent warnings of their parents. They are at the height of their prowess — young, strong, physically capable, with a seemingly endless life stretched out before them. They shrug off suggestions of caution — "That won't happen to me."

The government does what it can to maintain control — limiting the ability of young people to drive, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes. But federal and state agencies are limited in what they can do.

After heartbreaking multiple drownings at the Flume in Wilmington last month and at Split Rock Falls in New Russia in 2003, some members of the public wondered why New York doesn't post warning signs at state sites, like those, that can pose danger.

The Press-Republican asked State Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman David Winchell that question.

"All outdoor recreation activities have some inherent risk," he responded. "People must be responsible for making their own decisions based on the relative degree of risk involved and their abilities.

"DEC manages the Forest Preserve in a manner designed to emphasize the self-sufficiency of the user to assume a high degree of responsibility for environmentally sound use of such areas and for his or her own health, safety and welfare.

"DEC cannot sign every possible danger on 2.7 million acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve."

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