Burkesville, Ky. (Sept. 19, 2022)— It has been a long-standing tradition at Dale Hollow Lake for park rangers to share the importance of water safety with young campers visiting Trooper Island Youth Camp on Dale Hollow Lake.
Each Tuesday throughout the summer months, park rangers join campers at Trooper Island for lunch, followed by an interactive lesson on water safety. On the Tennessee-Kentucky state border, Trooper Island is a non-profit summer camp hosting around 700 kids each summer.
Park Rangers Bobby Bartlett said, “It’s important to teach the kids water safety, teaching them that up to a certain age they are required to wear a lifejacket when on board a boat when it’s moving. It could save their lives. After lunch, Park Rangers Giovanny Espinoza and Bobby Bartlett set up a display table full of water safety tools. These educational tools include life jackets, boating safety equipment, demonstration navigational buoys and much more. As the campers settle down and their attention turns to the rangers, they immediately become intrigued. Some recognize items placed on display and whisper to the next person about what they see, while others are unsure about what is in front of them.
Each item in the water safety program is held up one at a time and the campers are asked what they think the item is. Once the item is identified, campers are then asked what they think it does and why it’s important for water safety. As more items are shown, more hands are raised, and the campers become more and more eager to join in and share their thoughts on what the water safety tool is and why it is important.
"Providing the water safety program in a fun, interactive way where they try on lifejackets, ask questions, and learn new things is a proactive way for young people to understand the importance of water safety,” said Giovanny Espinoza, Pathways park ranger at Dale Hollow Lake. By discussing and having interactive, hands-on activities with water safety items such as lifejackets, the Rescue Disk, flare guns, and anchors, the campers get introduced to lifesaving skills to prevent drowning of themselves and others. They learn both the dangers and safe practices when boating or swimming in lakes and rivers.
The ages of Trooper Island campers range from nine to 12 years old, and each one is required by law to wear a lifejacket when boating on Tennessee and Kentucky waterways.
“It’s extremely important that each vessel has enough lifejackets for every person on board and that they fit correctly, because having one that doesn’t fit is the same as not having one at all,” said Bartlett.
One of the best ways to learn how to do something appropriately, is to learn how not to do it. Through a fun and very interactive lesson, each camper is intentionally selected to wear the wrong sized lifejacket. Giggles can be heard as the toddler’s lifejacket is given to a camper who is well aware it will never fit. An oversized adult lifejacket is given to a child, who is engulfed by it once they’ve put it on. By allowing the campers to visually see the improper lifejacket fitments, they begin to identify the faults in the vests and learn why they wouldn’t be the right fit.
Finally, campers learn the method to properly pick a life jacket for themselves. Life jackets won’t work unless they are properly worn, fitted to the appropriate size, and all the zippers and buckles are hooked in place. In the future, when these children are recreating on or around the water, they will have the skills to keep themselves safe.
According to the CDC, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death for ages one through 14. By familiarizing the youth with proper water safety skills, young people can subsequently help lower casualty statistics due to improper wear of life jackets or not wearing life jackets at all. For people over the age of 15, more than half of the drownings occur in natural waters.
Programs at Dale Hollow Lake, such as the Loaner Life Jacket Program, can help ensure that lake goers have access to lifejackets in the recreation areas. These life jackets are loaned free of charge to the public at Pleasant Grove Day Use Area, Obey River Day Use Area, Dale Hollow Damsite Campground, Lillydale Campground, Obey River Campground, and Willow Grove Campground.
(For news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District go to the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)