For the past year the ranger and maintenance staff at Alum Creek Lake has continued to set a high standard for water and boating safety education and promotion in the Huntington District. Alum Creek Lake is located in Delaware County, Ohio, north of the City of Columbus between I-71 and US 23. Alum Creek flows south joining Big Walnut Creek, in southeast Columbus, which joins the Scioto River. In addition to Flood Risk Management, Alum Creek Lake supplies water to the metropolitan area of Columbus, Ohio. Other benefits of the lake project are recreation, fish and wildlife management, and downstream water quality. The majority of the lake property is leased to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to operate as a State Park. The Corps of Engineers manages and operates a Visitor Center and the Below Dam Recreation Area, as well as the dam.
During 2014, the ranger staff conducted 49 water safety programs/events and made over 29,000 direct contacts including elementary and middle school classes, scout groups, Children’s Hospital visitors and patients, holiday parade observers, State and county fair visitors, Columbus Zoo Kidzfest families, and fans of the latest youth activity craze in central Ohio, known as “Touch-a-Truck” events. Corey, the water safety robot, is the focus of attention for thousands for children during these events and programs. At three “touch a truck” events, Corey mingled among families sharing the three rules – Swim with a Buddy, Don’t Just Pack It Wear Your Life Jacket, and Reach or Throw but Never Go. Corey greeted visitors to the Ohio State Fair and the Delaware County Fair (home of the famous Little Brown Jug Harness race) and shared trading cards. At Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Corey, Bobber and Rangers met young patients as well as visitors and staff while teaching water and boating safety principles. KidzFest at the Columbus Zoo was a chance for Corey to meet families face to face. The Alum Creek Management Team coordinated the Corps exhibits and staffing at the Ohio State Fair and Columbus Zoo KidzFest. Corey leads the Corps of Engineers parade entries by driving in front of the pickup truck pulling the patrol boat with bobber as a passenger. Parades on Memorial Day, July 4th, October Pumpkin Festival, and Christmas gave thousands the opportunity to experience the water safety message. Corey has begun making an impact on parents in the Corps’ target audience, as children recognize their “friend” and pull parents to interact on every occasion. Corey visited19 school classrooms and is the center of the water safety message by interacting with elementary students and having them participate in hands on activities. Many other activities and water safety related tasks, some described below, were accomplished during the year.
Corey the safety boat has a notable history. In 2009, and after years of borrowing Coastie from the Coast Guard, Alum Creek was able to purchase the first “Corey” the water safety boat. The animated robot boat was named and decorated at Alum Creek and has since become a household name to thousands of children in Ohio. Corey is featured in newspapers, on local newscasts, and is now appearing on promotional flyers to publicize public events. Promotional “Corey” products now include trading cards, stickers and t-shirt iron-ons, routinely given to children to remind them of Corey and his water safety message. At exhibits and at home in the visitor center, Corey has his own specially designed dock.
The Alum Creek staff has also been a leader in developing promotional items. In addition to the Cory trading cards, stickers and t shirt iron ons, in 2014 a color changing cup was designed specifically targeting the 18-35 year old males. Then there were sunglasses, sun screen, can cozies, flexible flyers, and now drink coasters, all with life jacket and water safety messages.
The Alum Creek Staff has worked cooperatively with the Columbus Sail and Power Squadron to paint a giant PFD with the message GIT-R-ON on the embankment of Delaware Dam during the week prior to the 4th of July holiday. This site is adjacent to US Highway 23, a major north/south route to Lake Erie and other inland lakes in Ohio with approximately 34,000 motorists traveling past on a daily basis. Originated in 1989 by Resource Manager Bob Wattenschaidt, then at Delaware Lake, the current design has been in place since 2006.
The squadron provides volunteers and painting equipment and stencil materials. The staff at Alum Creek prepared the site, and provided other equipment. The painting is annually featured in local newspapers to remind boaters of the importance of wearing a life jacket and is highlighted on nearby Columbus newscasts.
Around the exterior of the visitor center, large cartoon figures of Bobber, the water safety dog, and accompanying characters were installed in 2014. Taken from the Bobber cartoons, the characters were enlarged and printed on weatherproof material and mounted on the exterior of the building reminding all visitors of water safety. In addition, daily contacts in the Alum Creek Visitor Center included water safety tips and literature. TWO repetitive PFD instructional videos are displayed on a TV Kiosks in the display area to reinforce the importance of wearing a proper fitting life jacket. A display banner, with a life jacket and “Git-R-On” text, remind all visitors to wear their jacket.
Temporary bags signs with three different messages were displayed at all boat ramps during National Safe Boating week. The signs are similar to political campaign signs with messages of “National Safe Boating Week” surrounded with a life ring, “Just Wear It” with a PFD, and a sail boat with “When Boating Always Wear a Life Jacket”.
Other miscellaneous, but effective water safety tasks used in 2014 include: large boat ramp water safety signs, stenciling sidewalks leading to all ramps and boat docks, patrol vehicle magnetic life jacket signs, stenciled bridge piers across the lake, water safety exhibits in visitor center, Bobber activity book distribution to ten elementary 3rd grade classes, and a life jacket loaner station at one heavily used boat ramp (designed/ built by maintenance staff).
In order to accomplish the mission, the lake staff has an active volunteer program with 76 volunteers, and partners with other groups and agencies. The Central Ohio Safe Boating Council, which Alum Creek Lake staff helped organize nearly 25 years ago, coordinates many regional lake activities among organizations and volunteer groups. It is also a normal route for obtaining grant funding for water and boating safety education activities. Although no grant applications were successful in 2014, the Alum Creek Lake staff continued to coordinate volunteers to assist in meeting project objectives.