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Posted 10/23/2014

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By Carol Labashosky, public affairs

On Sept. 20-21 USACE park rangers and natural resource project managers from lakes in the Louisville District’s Middle Wabash Area participated in the 2014 Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience held at Fort Harrison State Park, Indianapolis, Indiana. This is the fourth year that USACE participated in this event, staffing a water safety educational outreach station from 10 a.m.– 7 p.m. both days.

The Hoosier Outdoor Experience is Indiana’s largest hands-on outdoor recreation event. The event is presented by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Natural Resources Foundation, and various sponsors including grassroots organizations. Every year, approximately 30,000 people attend this free two-day experience to try more than 50 outdoor activities spread across the park’s 1,700 acres. Visitors can choose from activities such as fishing, camping skills, hiking, horseback riding, outdoor cooking, shooting sports, canoeing and kayaking.

The goal of the event is to get more Hoosiers interested in outdoor recreation. A large number of participants have little or no outdoor recreation skills or knowledge. This event illustrates what outdoor recreation activities are available in Indiana and how to do them.

Recognizing that these 30,000 Hoosiers are seeking recreational opportunities in Indiana and may find their way to a USACE project, the Middle Wabash Area rangers want to get their water safety message to these folks earlier than later. USACE is strongly committed to reducing public recreation fatalities at all facilities. Outreach and education efforts play a key role in the success of the water safety program.

With this goal in mind, USACE Middle Wabash Area rangers staffed a large water safety outreach exhibit, featuring a patrol boat, life jacket display/fitting station, and Seamoor the Sea Serpent, a robotic water safety mascot that talks. Utilizing these tools, rangers were able to accomplish their water safety mission by promoting the use of life jackets, distributing educational materials for water safety awareness, and answering questions from visitors.

At the end of a long but enjoyable weekend, according to the USACE staff, the mission was successfully executed by the USACE Middle Wabash Area park rangers and managers.

"We reached more than 7,629 men, women and children with the Corps water safety messages, and that was our total contacts for the weekend. It’s important to remind people both young and old to wear their life jackets when they are on the water," said Dave Cable, USACE Louisville District Middle Wabash Area operations manager.