Perhaps it’s the best-kept secret on the lake, but if the Friends of Lake Lanier didn’t exist, some of the public-facing programs of the Corps of Engineers wouldn’t happen.
Take, for instance, the newly upgraded 20 life jacket loaner stations around Lanier that provide access to life jackets for the public using the beaches, or campground equipment including gators, laundry machines and signage to provide services for campers. The group also supports three annual Water Safety Task Force meetings hosted by the Corps for city and county first responders to coordinate emergency response before major holidays by providing lunch.
In 2020, the group funded a pollinator garden at the entrance to the Buford Dam Project Management office to support wildlife and natural resources management by the Corps around the lake. It also provides branded apparel each year to the park volunteers who work the entrance gates, as well as park rangers.
Since the group was founded in 2017, volunteers have raised nearly $175,000 to assist the Corps with various projects that support its water safety and recreation activities in cases where flexible funding is needed or helpful. All but 3 percent of funds raised stay with the projects at Lake Lanier; that 3 percent is used for administrative costs.
“As a 501(c) 3 non-profit, FLL has the flexibility to seek out funding through cash and in-kind donations in addition to selling ice and firewood and providing laundry services in the campgrounds, which in turn is available for use for projects specific to the Corps at Lake Lanier. ” said Tim Baker, treasurer of Friends of Lake Lanier. “This way, we can assist the Corps with various projects that support their water safety and recreation activities where flexible funding is needed or helpful.”
Friends of Lake Lanier is one of 26 such groups at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects across the country. The group works under a special operating agreement that allows them to function in partnership with the Corps, working closely with rangers on projects and events, as well as in tandem on work in the parks and campgrounds around the lake.
“It feels like we are part of the same team and we really get to see how much the Corps does in support of the Lake Lanier community,” Baker said. “For instance, in 2020, we were able to accept a 1996 Oasis 210 LS. 21’ 3’’ long boat, trailer and motor donation that is being used by rangers to conduct water-quality tests and manage buoys and markers for water safety. The donor received a tax deduction and the Corps ended up with another boat to help them with their work. It was a win for all concerned.”
Baker said the group is actively seeking more volunteers to join them this year.
“Volunteering only takes about three to five hours a week, and there are plenty of opportunities to become involved, from hands-on work with projects like the life-jacket loaner program to providing graphic and technical support as well as communications and community relations.”
In addition to managing the sales of firewood and ice in the campgrounds, the group has identified several projects for 2022, including the installation of 29 new bulletin boards at Day Use Parks and Campgrounds. Planning sessions with the Corps will take place in the next month or so.
Why should people volunteer to become part of Friends of Lake Lanier? Baker sums it up.
“This is a great opportunity to work with the Corps at Lake Lanier, get to know their operations and interact with the rangers and work in the park and campground facilities,” he said. “And you can support key water safety, recreation and natural-source initiatives, plus help make Lake Lanier an even better place for recreation.”
Run entirely by volunteers, Friends of Lake Lanier is led by Acting President and Board Chairwoman Alysia Cahn; Treasurer Tim Baker, Secretary Rhea Asper, and board members Tessa Nielson, Michael Moon, Connie Howell and Jay Howell.
For information about the group or to join, visit www.friendsoflakelanier.org or message the group on its Facebook Page. There is no cost to join.
Photos: courtesy of Friends of Lake Lanier