Each year at the beginning of the lake season, more than 180 life jackets are available at 14 parks and four campgrounds for visitors to Lake Lanier to use while swimming at the beaches. Throughout the season, another 300 are needed to resupply the stations.

“These life jackets don’t appear by magic, and we rely on the public to donate their gently used life jackets throughout the year to help us supply the 20 loaner stations around the lake,” Baker said. “The Corps inspects each one to ensure they are approved for use.”

Volunteers label them and put out the initial 180 right before the season starts around the beginning of April. Then volunteers monitor the stations and resupply them with life jackets all summer and into the fall.

“All 20 of the life jacket loaner stations are new,” said Connie Howell, FLL board member responsible for the project. “We have been fortunate that this has been an Eagle Scout project for various troops in the community.”

Eagle Scouts in front of life jacket donor station

Environmental Stewardship Program Manager Steve Cahn, left, and Ranger Henry Wray, far right, congratulate three local Eagle Scouts who completed life jacket loaner stations for Lake Lanier Corps of Engineer Parks last year. From left, Alex Wang built stations at Little Hall and Two Mile; Nathan Smith completed two at West Bank; and Homer Ramos constructed two at Old Federal.

Ranger and Eagle Scout candidates in front of life jacket station sign

Two additional Eagle Scout candidates receive thanks from Special Programs Ranger Ernest Noe. Dale Padgett, left, built stations at Van Pugh and Burton Mill; Nathan Muncy completed stations at Keith’s Bridge and Long Hollow.

Each teenager takes on two stations, investing hours of time to raise funds and build the structures. It costs $700-$800 to build each station.

“This is just one way we can help serve the public and promote the water safety message at Lake Lanier,” she said. “But this work cannot be done without the support of the public and the community, so we are grateful to all those who donate and volunteer. We also have several businesses and individuals who donate cash to the program so that we can purchase new life jackets.”

This year’s life-jacket collection stations are located at Bald Ridge Marina, Gainesville Marina, Hideaway Bay Marina, University Yacht Club and the Lanier Project Management Office.

“As you get your own boat and equipment ready, please consider donating life jackets,” Howell said. “You don’t know who might need one and how your donation might actually save a life.”

Information about the Life Jacket Loaner program is available at www.friendsoflakelanier.org.

Photos: courtesy of Friends of Lake Lanier