Cordell Hull Lake staff garners Water Safety Team Award

By Leon RobertsMarch 13, 2024

Cordell Hull Lake staff receives Water Safety Team Award
Tim Dunn, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Operations Division deputy chief, presents the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Water Safety Team Award March 5, 2024, to (Left to Right) Park Rangers Stone Fagan, Hunter Humphrey, Lucas Hix, Ashley Webster, and Resource Manager Kenny Claywell at the Nashville District's Park Ranger Workshop in Paducah, Kentucky. The team is lauded for its promotion of water safety during the 2023 recreation season and the project’s 50th Anniversary activities. Teammates Brad Potts and Nathan Pennington were not able to attend the award presentation. (USACE Photo by Leon Roberts) (Photo Credit: Leon Roberts) VIEW ORIGINAL

PADUCAH, Ky. (March 13, 2024) – The staff at Cordell Hull Lake received the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Ohio River Division’s Water Safety Team Award during a workshop here March 5, 2024, for outstanding work in educating the public about being safe recreating in the water and boating on the lake.

Tim Dunn, USACE Nashville District Operations Division deputy chief, presented the award to Resource Manager Kenny Claywell and Park Rangers Ashley Webster, Brad Potts, Lucas Hix, Hunter Humphrey, Stone Fagan and Nathan Pennington on behalf of Maj. Gen. Mark Quander, commanding general. Dunn lauded the team for drawing attention to water safety as part of the project’s 50th Anniversary activities.

“This is a huge deal to be selected as the top water safety team at a lake in the division,” Dunn said in congratulating the recipients of this recognition. “The staff at Cordell Hull went above and beyond to promote water safety and public safety. Whether on the water, campground or at a recreation area, this team worked very hard to assist as many people as possible. They deserve to be congratulated for their efforts and accomplishments.”

The commanding general noted in the award citation how the team highlighted water safety in more than 75 events during the recreation season while celebrating the lock and dam’s anniversary

“Their leadership, professionalism and teamwork exemplify the Corps’ commitment to educating visitors on the importance of being safe in and around the water. Cordell Hull Lake’s commitment to excellence reflects positively on the Nashville District,” Quander added.

In fiscal year 2023 the team led the anniversary celebration, dedicated Periwinkle Trail, conducted numerous navigation lock and powerplant tours, organized a shoreline cleanup, and promoted water safety with visitors and local communities.

Webster led the Water Safety Program and implemented programs such as environmental awareness days, water safety chalk contests, and public engagement at community parades. She also taught nine new Nashville District park rangers about conducting water safety programs in the Cumberland River Basin.

“The pride we felt when an adult was wearing their life jacket around kids was seen on the faces of the adults, children, and us,” Webster said. “Adults set an example for our future and setting a positive example is something to be proud of.”

Webster said the staff didn’t expect to receive this award, nor do they promote water safety for recognition. Nonetheless, to be recognized means their work is making a difference at Cordell Lake and surrounding communities.

“I am extremely proud of our team at Cordell Hull Lake,” Webster said. “They saw the importance in educating our visitors and community on water safety since USACE is a leader of water-based recreation.”

Potts played an important role in teaching boating safety to new team members and served as a boating safety instructor. He shared his expertise about boating safety and how to operate USACE vessels. Additionally, the Nashville District featured him in several water safety public service announcements to educate the public on social media about the importance of wearing life jackets on Corps lakes.

“During our patrols we perform courtesy vessel checks,” Potts said. “This enabled us to ensure safety for our visitors as well as interact and teach them things that they were not aware of such as changes in boating laws, directions and hazards on the lake, and boating equipment requirements in the state of Tennessee.”

Potts added that it is very important for the park rangers to share their knowledge with visitors and the public to educate and inform so people that operate boats on the lake do it safely and reduce risks of accidents.

Hix, Humphrey, Fagan and Pennington also played vital roles by engaging visitors about water safety and leading water safety programs. They were instrumental in promoting the “I Got Caught Wearing My Life Jacket” national campaign where visitors received free T-shirts for wearing an appropriate personal floatation device while boating.

The team also participated in First Responders Day, career fairs at local schools, and ensured life jacket loaner boards were fully stocked each weekend during the recreation season.

Kenny Claywell, Cordell Hull Lake resource manager, said the park rangers had to respond to a drowning Memorial Day weekend at Defeated Creek Day Use Area beach. Dealing with a tragic experience like this emphasized the importance to proactively promote water safety and take every opportunity to educate the public through public service announcements, equipping life jacket loaner stations, and conduct outreach events like local county fairs, Christmas parades, Home and Garden shows, and many other events.

“This was Cordell Hull Dam and Lake’s 50th Anniversary, which required a lot of extra coordination and work for our new team of park rangers,” Claywell explained. “In addition to dedication activities, the team excelled at spreading the word about the importance of water safety.”

Claywell said he is impressed in how these park rangers overcame adversity and continued to make a difference, which is what this team award is really all about.

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