Water Safety is a Top Priority at Allatoona Lake, Mobile District
Allatoona Lake located in Georgia 36 miles from Atlanta has an average of 6.7 million visits every year. At all of our lake and river projects visitors come to enjoy the outdoors and most of them spend time on, in, or near the water. Here are some of the things that are done at Allatoona Lake to help keep their visitors safe.
As part of their water safety initiatives with Cherokee County Safe Kids Coalition the Allatoona Lake staff partnered with them in 2007 to create an Allatoona Lake Ranger Trading Card Program that is still going strong today. The trading cards are distributed by the park rangers to children 15 years of age and under. Children ask park rangers for their card and they must answer a water safety question before receiving a card. After a child has received a certain number of cards they can take them to the project management office to receive donated prizes that includes things like life jackets, water park passes, Zoo Atlanta passes, beach mats, and t-shirts. A brochure is created every year to promote the trading card program.
In 2006, Allatoona Lake started their life jacket loaner program with life jackets that were donated by a local WalMart store. Since then, the program has expanded to include 22 stations in 19 recreation areas. Life jackets are loaned out come from partnerships with the BoatUS Foundation, Sea Tow Foundation, Yamaha Corporation, and Cobb County Safe Kids Coalition. For example, earlier this year the Yamaha Corporation donated 100 life jackets that can be used in the Allatoona Lake and Bartow County River life jacket loaner programs. The life jackets at Allatoona Lake are loaned out on an honor system at stations in their recreation areas and can be checked out at different locations around the lake including at the project management office. Having a loaner program that provides life jackets both on an honor system and check out system helps ensure that the life jackets are returned and reduces the number of life jackets that “walk away”.
The water safety program at Allatoona Lake could not be done without the assistance of a great volunteer staff. Over the years and since the Allatoona Volunteer Village has been created, volunteers have increasingly been asked to help promote water safety. In FY2019, the “Village People” as they are known, completed over 3,650 hours in recreation and water safety work. Their water safety duties include hanging several posters and banners in different locations around the lake, painting stencils on the pavement at boat ramps and other locations, assisting partners with numerous events, preparing handout materials for events, presenting interpretive programs at the beaches, taking pictures, which some of them were entered in the National Water Safety Program Photo Contest and won, maintaining and inspecting all of the life jacket loaner stations at the lake, and this year they built a new storage rack to hold all of their donated life jackets.
For the last five years, the staff at Allatoona Lake has participated in Wear a Life Jacket to Work Day, which is always the Friday before National Safe Boating Week in May. This year the Bartow County Commissioner and the Mayor of Cartersville, GA signed a proclamation of support for National Safe Boating Week. Members of the staff and volunteers from Allatoona Lake and other partners attended the proclamation signing to show their support.
The Allatoona Lake staff has built upon their water safety program by also incorporating the Every Kid in a Park passes into their water safety interpretive programs. In 2018, Allatoona Lake led the South Atlantic Division in number of passes issued and this year in 2019 they currently lead the nation, which includes all agencies, by issuing nearly 10,000 passes.
An Allatoona Lake Water Safety Task Force was created in 2015 to build cooperation and combine resources between first responders and partners around the lake to promote water safety particularly on holiday weekends. Since the inception of the task force, Allatoona Lake has seen a large decrease in water-related public recreation fatalities. In 2018, there were no water-related fatalities at the lake. That is the first year ever in the 68 year history of the lake that there were no fatalities.
Promoting water safety takes some effort, and it’s worth it, because one life lost is too many. The staff and volunteers at Allatoona Lake do an outstanding job of promoting water safety in many different ways and build great relationships with their partners that help them promote water safety. Even though the number of water-related fatalities has decreased at Allatoona Lake the task of promoting water safety is not over so their efforts continue.