BELTON — Labor Day weekend traditionally marks the end of the summer season, and with many area residents planning one last hurrah, officials are encouraging revelers to take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe celebration.

The Texas Department of Transportation will continue its annual Drink, Drive, Go to Jail campaign through Monday to remind people it is cracking down on drunken driving.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have a full complement of eight rangers patrolling Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes over the three-day weekend, Belton Lake Ranger Rob Giacomozzi said.

“We’ll continue to interface with the public in such a way to impact public safety,” Giacomozzi said. The Corps of Engineers will be heavily focusing on water safety, he said.

All motorboats must have at least one readily accessible life jacket for each person onboard. Anyone younger than 13 must wear a life jacket when on a watercraft less than 26 feet in length. Life belts or ring buoys do not meet the requirement. The law includes canoes, kayaks and paddleboats.

“We’ll be out issuing citations,” Belton Lake Ranger Murray McCarley said.

Fight zebra mussels

One of the major issues this year is the new regulations requiring boaters across Texas to drain watercraft to help fight the spread of invasive zebra mussels. It is a Class C misdemeanor statewide to possess or transport zebra mussels.

“My office will be out at two boat ramps per day reminding boaters about clean, drain and dry,” said Joe Tibbs, a Waco-based inland fisheries biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Bell County is under a burn ban, which also applies to Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes, but lake officials do not expect to see a decrease in the number of visitors during the weekend.

“A burn ban doesn’t impact visitation,” said Ronnie Bruggman, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes manager for Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes. “Historically, we’re usually under a burn ban from July 5 through Labor Day.”

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