Labor Day marked the official end of summer for lake-goers in Alabama. Every year, Memorial Day opens up a season of fun in the sun, but Labor Day is the closing of memories that will, for many, last a lifetime.
The “last hurrah,” as some call it, means the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) Marine Patrol was out in full force one last time. They won’t be gone for good, but the need for enhanced patrolling on lakes begins to simmer down just like the temperatures as fall approaches.
Cpl. Coty Brown said this summer had fewer boating fatalities and seemed quieter.
“Out here, everybody is just trying to have fun,” said Brown. “People have a lot better attitudes most of the time.”
Brown’s area includes Lay Lake, Neely Henry, Lake Martin, Logan Martin, Warrior River and Lake Wedowee. Patrols over the holiday weekend were working eight= to 12-hour shifts to make sure everyone followed the law. “We’re looking at idle speed zones, looking to make sure they have all their safety equipment, making sure children under the age of 8 have their life jackets on, make sure that people are riding in the correct positions in the boat,” said Brown.
Marine Patrol also checked boats to make sure there were enough life jackets on board for everyone in the boat, they checked weight limits on boats, and they looked for correct light usage at night. Common courtesies are also a concern for troopers on the water.
“When you’re on the boat ramp, make sure you use common courtesy,” Brown added.
Common courtesy for others is something everyone appreciates on lakes in Alabama. Communities have formed, and lifetime bonds have made because of people looking out for one another.
On Logan Martin Lake, there is a campground community that has all of the typical characteristics of a lake life vacation spot. It’s full of campers, boats, people fishing and friends becoming family over the years.
Rob Langford discovered Logan Landing 10 years ago when he was hired to work there as a DJ and Elvis tribute artist. It wasn’t long before his family decided they wanted more than visits to entertain people.
“Being out there, we loved it so much that we bought a camper, and here we are,” said Langford.
The Langfords have had their camper at Logan Landing for six years.
“It’s a very vibrant thing, and it’s family-friendly,” said Langford. “It’s a real community. At the lake, everything just slows down.”
Just this Fourth of July, Langford fell off a ladder at his camper and broke his back. He said what happened next was an example of how a lake community always comes together in times of need.
“I did not go out and solicit any donations or anything,” said Langford. “Lake Church at Logan Landing took up [collections] and gave us food through DoorDash and food delivery services. We had anonymous donations to us just to help, and it was just amazing.”
Langford thought back on the first big weekend of the year. He said every year, Memorial Day weekend ushers in new and old friends who are ready to have a good time.
“It’s crazy,” said Langford. “It’s all out. It’s like everybody’s been cooped up, and especially during the pandemic, it was like everyone could come out and let their hair down.”
Now that summer is coming to a close, the holiday weekend marks the shift from lake days to fall and football.
“It’s the last big hoorah, and everybody works to enjoy that, so it’s really the essence of Labor Day,” Langford said. “Work hard, play hard. Work hard so you can have the stuff that you play with at the lake. That’s lake life.”
When it comes to drinking on the water, Alabama does not have an open container law for boating, but drivers cannot be over the legal limit of .08.
“Come out and have a good time and make sure you have a designated driver,” Brown said. “If you’re drunk, then you will be going to jail for boating under the influence.”
Brown said he hopes everyone enjoys their time on Alabama lakes year-round, and he wants to remind boaters and swimmers to stay safe. He recommends having a charged cell phone when you are out on the water, just in case it is needed. If anything does happen, you can dial 911 or *HP.