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Busy highways, recreation areas a signature of Memorial Day kickoff to summer

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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There?ll be more Californians on the road this Memorial Day, compared to last year, according to AAA. And the foothills ? particularly the Auburn State Recreation Area ? will get a healthy helping of those travellers. ?Traditionally, Memorial Day is the kickoff for the summer season in California state parks,? Supervising Ranger Scott Liske said. ?(We see) full campgrounds and usually higher numbers of day-use visitors. We don?t have a way of saying how many. The factor for the crowds is the weather.? Every member of the recreation district?s ranger staff will be on duty for the holiday weekend. Along with keeping the park safe, they?ll on the lookout for impaired drivers. ?If you?re consuming alcoholic beverages, plan to have a sober driver,? he said. Another key aspect to ensuring a pleasant holiday is safety. ?People should be cautious around the rivers,? Liske said. ?The water is still cold. The middle and north forks (of the American River) are still snow-melt water. We urge everyone to be very cautious. This time of year, with higher water, for some places you may have visited later in the summer, the beach might be gone right now. It might be submerged.? That includes the popular Ponderosa Crossing, he said. For those planning to camp in the recreation area, don?t wait too long to make reservations. According to Liske, the two drive-to camps ? Mineral Bar on the middle fork with 17 sites and Ruck-a-Chucky on the north fork with five sites ? likely will be full by Friday evening. Reservations are required for the third campground, reachable by boat, at Lake Clementine. It is going to be a busy weekend for local businesses, too. That includes the Holiday Inn on Highway 49 in Auburn. ?There are a lot of weddings going on this weekend,? sales director Karen Coons said. ?So we have a lot of wedding parties. Typically we do get a lot of weddings (this time of year).? Ikeda?s on Lincoln Way in Bowman has stocked more inventory and will have more employees working during those three days, supervisor Tamara Hudson said. ?(Along with Thanksgiving and Christmas) it?s definitely (one of the) top holiday weekends,? she said. ?? This is the first weekend we stay open an hour later than normal. We?re open until 8 p.m. and then 9 p.m. on weekends.? Ikeda?s, just off Interstate 80, gets a lot of visitors on the way to and from Tahoe and Reno. ?This time of year, all of your fresh fruits are out. We have nectarines, peaches, strawberries, apricots and plums. They?re all locally grown,? Hudson said. AAA projects that 4.2 million Californians will travel 50 miles or more over the holiday weekend, up 1.5 percent from last year. ?High debt burdens, gasoline prices and uncertainties regarding the strength of the current economic recovery have not deterred Californians from holiday travel,? AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris said in a press release. ?But many consumers intend to cut back on the distance they travel, as well as on entertainment expenses, to compensate for reduced travel budgets.? It will be a maximum enforcement period for the California High Patrol. ?Every available officer will be working (over the) weekend,? spokesman Dave Martinez said. ?It starts Friday and ends Monday evening. People are going to be traveling with their trailers and their boats. Definitely there will be an increase in traffic.? The return home often presents the biggest problems. ?There?s the possibility of alcohol or drug impairment,? he said. The two main messages from the CHP are don?t drunk and drive, and buckle up. ?Everyone is going to have their family with them so see that everyone is buckled up,? Martinez said. Last year?s Memorial Day weekend saw 24 traffic collision deaths statewide, a 41 percent increase from the previous year. Sixty percent of those were not wearing a seat belt, according to a CHP press release. There were also 1,367 arrests for driving under the influence.