Respect the river.

As we approach the traditional end to summer, Labor Day weekend, we repeat that piece of advice, which we have heard offered by so many others through the years about the Missouri River.

In an Aug. 20 story, Journal staff writer Alex Boisjolie reported on local discussion this summer about the safety of "Burbank Beach," a popular area along the Missouri River roughly eight miles west of Elk Point, South Dakota. "Burbank Beach" is a "game production area" maintained by the state for wildlife and isn't a designated beach, but swimming is legal at the site. Posted signs at the location warn of the swimming dangers.

Because three young men have drowned within the last three years while swimming in the river off this sandy piece of state-owned land, some of the "Burbank Beach" discussion is focused on whether Union County should provide more surveillance of the site.

"There have been comments on Facebook that say we need to have a boat down there all the time and have somebody on duty all the time," Sheriff Dan Limoges said for the Aug. 20 story. "How can we do that? We can't. We would have to hire five or six people."

We commend county and state officials for discussion of additional ways to make "Burbank Beach" safer, including improved accessibility for emergency vehicles, but we sympathize with the sheriff's position. Because the sheriff's department doesn't have the manpower or budget, a significant increase in law enforcement presence isn't realistic.

So, in our minds, this is the bottom line: Personal responsibility will remain the most crucial ingredient for preventing future “Burbank Beach” tragedies no one wishes to see.

We urge - no, we implore - anyone who spends time at "Burbank Beach": Heed the risks, exercise caution, practice safety.

Respect the river.

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