Park rangers urge visitors to wear life jackets, avoid risks

Since Oct. 1, 2011, eight people have died on properties surrounding Lakes Hartwell, Russell and Thurmond. Three of those fatalities occurred in a single place: Hartwell’s Singing Pines Recreation Area. All three tragedies happened outside designated swimming areas and none of the victims wore life jackets.

Public safety is one of the greatest concerns for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park rangers. These rangers conduct regular and routine facility inspections in all recreational areas, but in response to these three tragic events the Corps conducted a special review of the Singing Pines Recreation Area.

The team, which included members of the district’s Operations and Safety Divisions, completed a review to help determine if the Singing Pines Recreation Area complies with the Corps’ “Recreation Facility and Customer Service Standards.” The team also looked for any additional safety features or modifications that would help prevent other accidents.

While the final phase of the review continues, the team has concluded that Singing Pines meets the Corps’ standards for beaches. The area will remain open until Sept. 9, its scheduled seasonal closure date.

Park rangers continue to advise the public to remain aware of their surroundings and not overestimate their abilities. “When activities take place in, on or around the water it is important that visitors use lifejackets,” said Chief Park Ranger Chrissy Westerberg. “It is especially dangerous to walk on sand bars, wade or swim outside designated areas when lake levels are low. These areas can be unpredictable and it is often impossible to know what lies beneath the water. The hazards are countless and include uneven slopes, drop offs and protruding limbs and rocks.”

Water safety is serious concern at any time in these areas and Corps officials encourage everyone to wear a life jacket when working or playing near water. The Savannah District, with its community partners, provides life jackets at loaner stations in various popular locations including Singing Pines. “This simple device can make the difference between life and death,” Westerberg said.

While Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, visitors enjoy recreational activities around the Savannah River Basin year round. “We strive to make each visit pleasant but everyone must remain vigilants to potential hazards and avoid taking unnecessary risks,” said Westerberg.

About US Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District oversees a multi-million dollar military construction program at 11 Army and Air Force installations in Georgia and North Carolina. We also manage water resources across the Coastal Georgia region, including maintenance dredging of the Savannah and Brunswick harbors; operation of three hydroelectric dams and reservoirs along the upper Savannah River; and administration of an extensive stream and wetland permitting and mitigation program within the state of Georgia. Follow us on Twitter @SavannahCorps and on Facebook.com/SavannahCorps
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