Story last updated at 1:12 p.m. Thursday, June 6, 2002

Rowdy beach behavior threatens tourist-haven image
The dangerous and inconsiderate high jinks that marked last Memorial Day weekend should be a wake-up call to parents and local residents in this tourism-dependent region.

With overworked and understaffed state and local police struggling to keep order as unruly revelers converged on Anchor Point beaches, local businesses, chambers of commerce and tourism promoters would be wise to find ways to make sure problems don't continue to build.

According to police and observers, some of the people who traveled from Anchorage or beyond to fish the opening of king salmon season at the mouth of the Anchor River said they may not return because of their negative experience.

Although Memorial Day was originally begun after the Civil War to honor war dead by decorating their graves, many people have long combined the holiday with the start of the summer fun season.

Schools are out, graduates are celebrating, families gather for picnics or barbecues, and here in the fishing-friendly Kenai Peninsula, anglers take the opportunity to go after trophy salmon.

The memory of our war veterans should not be forgotten, but there's nothing wrong with celebrating the end of the long winter and classroom stress.

But when the parties turn into near mob scenes, as some described it, campers complain of vandalism and thefts from coolers and campsites, and local campground operators demand a greater police presence, we are definitely headed in the wrong direction.

Although there seems yet to be any clear connection to the holiday, the potentially deadly homemade bomb spiked with shrapnel and razor blades that went off in a Bishop's Beach restroom is another ominous sign for the future.

Some people may prefer to brush off the complaints as trouble brought down from Anchorage, or simple fun, but based on police reports, most of the troublemakers at the Anchor Point beach appeared to be local youth from Anchor Point and Homer areas.

Drinking is a major element in the trouble <> and judging from the apparent age of many unruly revelers, a lot of them were too young to be legally consuming alcohol.

Not that all the trouble came from teens, some adults were also part of the party <> and the booze had to come from somewhere. Parents must not turn a blind eye to what their kids are doing. With a vehicle rolling down a bluff and over one of its young riders, and ATV and trail-bike riders revving up and down the fishing beaches, spinning gravel and making ugly ruts, there was serious danger to life and limb.

Luckily, there were no serious injuries reported over the long holiday, but local residents should not take the chance such rowdiness won't end up in fatal accidents or fights over July Fourth or other holidays to come.

The police need also to reassess their strategy. With such a huge territory to patrol, a few troopers are stretched thin <> and troublemakers count on escaping the law. Unless parents and local groups step in, police agencies should seek help to beef up their presence and visibility to prevent future troubles.