Possible changes to Kern River death sign

Posted at 12:13 AM, May 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-26 03:14:51-04

For nearly 50 years an infamous sign has been updated to show drivers on Highway 178 headed towards Kernville just how many live the Kern River has taken. 

But this year’s update may be a little different.

“The sign is not doing any good. If we're still having approximately six people, of course some years we have none some years we have more, then it's not doing its job,” said Marsha Smith the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce President.

Each year a crew is sent to update the number of deaths that have occurred on the Kern River.

But this year residents and Chamber of Commerce members want the sign changed completely, taking away the death toll count that has been visual since 1968.

“I think a more friendly, positive sign. Something that says something like 'Kern River: Think safety first', you know 'wear a life vest', something like that,” said Smith.

Which has residents and business owners in Kernville like Cheryl Borthick, saying that the sign is misleading as to what is actually considered 'The Kern River'.

“When you enter the canyon, you're thinking that that's what it is, the Kern River in the canyon. It also includes the drowning's at Gordon's Ferry and Hart Park and down river there at Ming Lake and what have you,” said Borthick.

But Borthick is also curious if people even notice the sign at all as they enter the canyon.

“Once they get up here I think that most people don't really pay attention to it. And who knows whether people pay attention to it at all or not,” said Borthick.

Still realizing the threat the river poses, Smith doesn't believe changing the sign will make the necessary difference but it's an option they're willing to try.

“We're not trying to falsify anything; we know that there are people that drink or whatever and they get in the water and they drown. That's not going to stop; the sign is not going to stop them from doing that no matter how many deaths you have there. They're not going to,” said Smith.

According to the Kern County Sheriff's Office, the meeting to discuss the future of this sign has been set tentatively for the middle of next week.