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Darts and laurels

Laurels to the 4th of July weekend and the parades, picnics, cookouts, fireworks and other traditional Independence Day celebrations people will enjoy ó but be careful out there. As noted in Thursdayís Salisbury Post, these festive occasions can quickly take a frightening turn when people donít exercise commonsense precautions around activities such as swimming and boating, fireworks displays and even the preparation and storage of food. This year, because of drought conditions over large portions of the state and the Southeast, safety officials are especially concerned about fireworks setting off wildfires. Fireworks displays have been restricted in coastal areas and other places in North Carolina where officials worry that conditions are ripe for more wildfires like those that have scorched hundreds of acres. Sparks and dry vegetation are a combustible combination. If youíre determined to ignite your own celebration, be aware of the fire threat, as well as the potential risk to fingers, toes, ears and eyes.

Dart to a less enjoyable aspect of this Independence Day weekend ó restricted hours and increased fees at parks, libraries, museums and other destinations for family activities. Because of budget cutbacks, the Rowan Public Library (like others around the country) has reduced its hours and dropped some programs. Some county parks have reduced their operating hours, and the N.C. Transportation Museum has begun charging admission fees. Itís not as if there were other easy options, given the budget deficits confronting governments at every level. You see similar stories nationwide, with state parks from Virginia to Washington State struggling to cope with reduced budgets and personnel. Still, the parks and recreation restrictions come as we enter the prime vacation season, with people looking for low-cost family outings and entertainment options. State parks have become increasingly popular during the economic slump. Nationwide, the number of visitors to state recreation areas rose from 727 million in 2009 to 740 million in 2010.

Laurels to the Rowan-Salisbury Schools superintendent, Dr. Judy Grissom, who was named southwest region superintendent of the year and is now in the running for the state title. Being superintendent of a school system is never an easy job ó the turnover rate is proof of that ó and local and state budget battles make this an especially challenging time. The fact that Grissomís peers selected her for this honor attests to the respect others have for her leadership abilities and her vision as an educator.

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