Visitor assistance a top priority for Miami Area rangers

Published June 29, 2016
The Miami River Area’s visitor assistance training included a self-defense refresher.

The Miami River Area’s visitor assistance training included a self-defense refresher.

On June 6, 2016, the Miami River Area park rangers participated in Visitor Assistance Refresher Training at the Caesar Creek Lake Visitor Center, Waynesville, Ohio. The Miami River Area includes Caesar Creek Lake, William H. Harsha Lake, West Fork Lake, and C.J. Brown Dam and Reservoir in Ohio, as well as Brookville Lake in Indiana.

Chris Rapenchuck, Miami River Area operations manager, welcomed the rangers and emphasized the importance of visitor assistance training.

“You are the face of the Corps,” Rapenchuck told the group, whose members ranged from lake managers with decades of experience to rangers on their very first day of work.

While holding only two percent of federal lands, the Corps of Engineers hosts 20 percent of visits to federal recreation sites, according to a 2013 recreation report.

“During the peak recreation season, interactions with the public are so dynamic that a frequent review of the Visitor Assistance program is crucial to protecting the public, ourselves, the Corps of Engineers, and park resources,” said Matthew Palmer, manager at C.J. Brown Dam and Reservoir, Springfield, Ohio.

The training day included refreshers on regulations, customer service, self-defense and pepper spray use. Discussions were held on tactics and language for dealing with tough situations and keeping a professional demeanor. Rangers also had a chance to share lessons and techniques from their own real life experiences, which Palmer said was especially helpful for the newer staff members.

All permanent park rangers with citation authority must receive a minimum of eight hours of annual refresher training, including among other topics, visitor assistance policy, enforcement procedures, local issues and personal protection.

“Visitor Assistance training defines the roles and responsibilities of the park rangers, who are regulation enforcers at the projects,” said Palmer. “The annual refresher ensures the park ranger staffs are properly carrying out their duties as natural resource, environmental, regulation enforcement and public relations specialists.”