All of the beaches at Okatibbee Lake open Saturday morning for the first time in two years. Park rangers say it's the perfect way to kick off the Memorial Day weekend.
"We want people to have fun out here, but we want them to be safe," said
Gary C. Hardin of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees Okatibbee Lake.
Safety is a big concern for park rangers, especially this year considering the beach areas have been closed the last two summers due to drought conditions. They say they want to make sure kids and adults remember how to stay safe in the water.
"If a child comes out here swimming we want to make sure the parent is watching them at all times," said Hardin. "And if you can't swim, make sure you let the people you are with know about that."
Even the best swimmers can get into trouble if they swim outside the red buoys. The water can quickly get significantly deeper, which is why swimmers are asked to stay within the enclosed area.
Another reason is that boaters have a hard time recognizing swimmers, but they can spot the markers indicating a swimming area.
And for kids who can't swim, Hardin suggests putting a life jacket on them. The park has a life jacket loaner program. Just sign up at the lake, borrow a jacket and return it when you are done.
"We want everyone to come back and spend the rest of the summer with us and have fun at Okatibbee Lake," Hardin said.
Other than swimming, you may fish, camp, picnic, visit the water park, enjoy wildlife, and exercise.