The park ranger is the face of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at each of its lakes and reservoirs. You see them patrolling the lakes, campgrounds, recreation areas and picnicking sites. If you had the chance to step into their shoes for a day, would you do it? Members of the local Dallas and Fort Worth media had that opportunity recently during a ranger orientation day.
The Fort Worth District along with Texas Parks and Wildlife created the media event as well as an outreach and education day during the Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start to summer, to educate boaters. The goal is to have a safer boating season.
Park rangers at Lewisville Lake, along with game wardens from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, invited local media to the reservoir to learn what they do on a day-to-day basis to protect and assist the public. Members of the media were able to ride along in game warden and park ranger patrol boats to observe what a normal day on the lake is all about. They were also able to learn how the rangers and game wardens educate people about boater and water safety while on routine patrol.
“We focus a lot on partnerships, whether it's with Texas Parks and Wildlife, or the LV Project with the life jacket loaner stations,” said Lewisville Lake Park Ranger Chandler Sanford. “Being able to broadcast those partnerships and explain to people why we're doing what we're doing through articles, videos and interviews gets our message out there and lets people know why we're here and what our mission is.”
The LV (life vest) Project is a non-profit organization founded in the memory of Connor Gage, a 15-year-old drowning victim. Providing free loaner life vests at local lakes is one of the many projects the organization supports.
While having different roles and responsibilities, and working with different agencies, park rangers and game wardens do regular boat inspections while on the water. From verifying boat registration to ensuring all safety equipment is on board, it’s all about making the waterways safer for everyone.
“You can give somebody a citation and they’ll get upset and they may or may not make the corrective action,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Game Warden David Spangler. “If you educate them, the hope is that they learn and they understand not only what to do, but why it is important. It's kind of like the old saying, if you give a man a fish he will eat for a day. But if you teach him to fish, he can eat for a lifetime. So, what we're trying to do on the lake is to get everyone to boat safely for life.”
On a sundrenched Friday morning before embarking on a patrol of the lake, members of the media toured the patrol boats and were introduced to the safety equipment onboard. Just like the boats they inspect, rangers and game wardens ensured everyone had a proper fitting life jacket on and knew where the fire extinguishers were before heading out on the lake with the reporters.
“I am familiar with many of the laws,” said Rebecca Lopez, a reporter with WFAA, the local ABC affiliate. “I think it’s just important to remember to follow safety rules and think of others when you are on the water. I’m glad the wardens are out there checking.”
Along with the game wardens, other members of TPWD were at the lake to talk about boater safety.
“There's a lot of responsibility in boating. I want people to make sure that they are safe on the waterway and that they take precautions because boating accidents are preventable,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Boating Education Manager Kimberly Sorensen. “If you pay attention while you're driving, if you use your safety equipment like life jackets and kill switches, if you avoid alcohol out on the water, all of those things can make it a lot safer environment when you're out boating.”
Safety is the most important message the park rangers and game wardens want to share with the public, not just today but every day. They stress that you can be safe while still enjoying what the lakes and reservoirs have to offer.
“I like to have fun like everyone else, but it’s important to do it responsibly and safely,” said Lopez. “I’ve covered too many tragedies over the years where people drowned in a lake and all of it is preventable if we all follow the rules, laws and safety measures.”
For more information about the LV Project and the life vest loaner stations in the DFW area see the story at: https://www.fox4news.com/video/1104879