Signage for life jacket safety program

Life jacket loaner station at Lake Lanier

Just in time for lake season, the Friends of Lake Lanier volunteer group is seeking donations of life jackets to stock the lake’s free loaner stations.

“With 14 life-jacket loaner stations at 11 Corps parks around the lake, we like to start the season with a full stock of life jackets in sizes ranging from baby to adults,” said Stephen Cahn, navigation ranger with the Corps. “That means we need at least 190 PFDs by the time we open the parks and beaches. The goal is to provide people with life jackets and help reduce the risks of drowning. By the end of season, we easily need at least 400 PFDs to keep the stations fully stocked.”

Donation locations include Hideaway Bay, Bald Ridge, Gainesville Marina and University Yacht Club. People can drop off gently-used life jackets any time starting in March.

“As a member of the lake community, University Yacht Club is always glad to support programs that benefit the lake and its visitors,” said Chris Ferris, UYC general manager. “Being a collection point for life jackets for this project is a great way to participate.”

Once received the PFDs are cleaned, repaired if necessary, sized and labeled by members of Friends of Lake Lanier.

“This year we’re fortunate that this project has also been undertaken by a group of Eagle Scouts from several different troops around the area, who will be upgrading and repairing the stations around the lake,” Cahn said. “They will also be building several more, including a station in Two Mile Creek that we expect to have installed and stocked by early April.”

The life jackets are available in the parks with the intention of people using them. “If they don’t have a life jacket of their own, we would rather the borrower keep it and continue to reuse it,” he said. “Our safety message about wearing life jackets saves lives is so important. Wearing a life jacket can save lives.”

Friends of Lake Lanier  is a volunteer group. In addition to spearheading the life-jacket loaner program, the group sells firewood, ice and soft drinks in the campgrounds and uses the proceeds to provide support for un-funded Corps projects. For instance, last fall the group received a donation of a boat and motor. Monies collected by the Friends group was used to repair the motor before donating the boat and motor to the Corps.

“We are very interested in expanding the membership in Friends of Lake Lanier,” Cahn said. “Please get in touch with us so that we can provide further information and help get you involved in the betterment of recreation at Lake Lanier.”

The group operates with a board of directors that meets regularly with the Corps. The president of the group is Alysia Cahn.

“Many people don’t realize that park entry fees, dock permits, camping and other fees are returned to the Federal General Fund in Washington and do not stay here at Lake Lanier,” Cahn said. “Now that the Friends group has a formalized relationship with the Corps, some of the funds are kept local and can be used directly for the benefit of Lake Lanier.”

For more information, contact Chief Ranger Ernest Noe, volunteer coordinator at 770 945-9531 or email the group at

Photo: by Pam Keene