The Corps of Engineers has participated in partnerships with other agencies concerned with water safety since the 1950s, and Corps safety experts were among the founding fathers of the National Water Safety Congress more than 50 years ago. Since the beginning of the water safety education program, drowning deaths at Corps lakes and rivers projects have decreased by 60%.
Each year, park rangers and volunteers at Lake Okeechobee reach thousands of visitors with boating and water safety information, and visit local schools to teach more than 20,000 elementary school students important lessons about water safety. Programs are given in the campgrounds, day use areas, community pools, schools, and at civic organization meetings.
In 2006, a life jacket loaner program was implemented at the W.P. Franklin and St. Lucie Recreation Areas. Two self-serve honor stations at the W.P. Franklin South boat ramp and swim beach make life jackets available for boaters and swimmers. At the W.P. Franklin and St. Lucie Campgrounds visitors can obtain a life jacket from the park attendant. To date the program has been very successful with visitors using and returning the jackets.
In 2005, a water safety initiative was launched, with the placement of water safety awareness buoys at the W.P. Franklin South Recreation Area on the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie Recreation Area on the St. Lucie Canal. The specially marked buoys heighten visitor awareness of water fatalities that have occurred on Corps projects nationwide, and are accompanied by informational posters and flyers at visitor centers, boat ramps and other public access areas, encouraging the use of life jackets.
Please make your visit to Lake Okeechobee and the Okeechobee Waterway a safe and enjoyable one. Taking water safety precautions saves lives.