Angled view of Travis England with camera, lake, and sunset in the background.

Travis England enjoys a sunrise over the lake.

It’s difficult to keep up with Travis England, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ new Public Affairs Specialist for the Mobile District. Arriving at the Lake Lanier/Buford Dam office of the Corps last October, where he will be located, England quickly dove into his new job.

“Over about 6 to 8 weeks, I visited all 10 Mobile District Projects and met with probably more than 150 park rangers working at those projects who interface with the public every day,” he said. “They’re the boots on the ground – the face of the Corps in all our projects – and first, we want them to know that they are appreciated, even in these times of budget cuts and our reduced workforce.

“We’ll also be sharing ideas among the rangers about innovative and creative work at their projects and how they can be adapted throughout the division,” he said.

England will be working directly with the park rangers to help build community partnerships, creating programs that can help provide better customer service for the millions of visitors who recreate at Mobile District Parks all year long.

“The commonalities among the projects, the successful programs that exist at some projects and not others, and realistic ways to maximize manpower and reduced budgets were a major part of our new initiative for park rangers,” he said. “Sharing information and supporting each other across projects is a vital part of my work, but it’s not all I’ll be doing.”

What brought England to Corps

“I grew up wanting to be a park ranger,” said the Elkins, Arkansas, native. “Really. I’ve always had a deep appreciation and fascination for the outdoors. Most of my childhood was spent outside.”

He earned an interdisciplinary degree in Environmental Studies from Hendrix Collete in Conway, Arkansas, where he also played football.

Immediately after he graduated, he began work as a summer ranger at Table Rock Lake, a USACE-operated lake in southwest Missouri.

“Four months later I came to Cartersville and Allatoona Lake as a permanent park ranger, creating 12 distinct interpretive programs that I presented throughout the area’s primaries, elementaries, middle schools, high schools and universities.

“After a few years, I became frustrated with the realization of how little public knowledge there is about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or the park rangers and staff who work for the Corps,” he said. “After COVID, I took it upon myself to start producing content that highlights the Corps’ missions, service and initiatives.”

His commitment and focus to bring the diverse work of the Corps of Engineers, its staff and particularly park rangers, and their roles as ambassadors to the public, earned him South Atlantic Division Water Safety Ranger of the Year in 2021.

He was recognized again in 2023 by the South Atlantic Division and received the 2023 US Army Corps of Engineers’ National Water Safety Ranger of the Year.

More than recreation

Publicity photo of Travis England with arms stretched out with life jackets hanging from both arms.

Travis England was named National Water Safety Ranger of the Year.

“One of a ranger’s many responsibilities is water safety, and sometimes that gets lost in the eyes of the public because of the day-to-day other operations we’re charged with,” England said. “But when you think about it, for the millions of visitors to Corps projects’ lakes and waterways, being aware of water safety can be the difference in a good day or one that’s not.”

However, he said, many people who use Corps’ lakes for recreation seem to think that’s why the lakes were created.

“They simply don’t know that – take the Buford Dam Project as an example – its original purposes outlined by Congress in 1946 when construction was authorized were power production, navigation and flood control,” he said. “And while nearly 12 million people came to Lake Lanier last year, the Corps is also responsible for managing the water flow, power production, navigability throughout the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint system from its headquarters in North Georgia all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Once the lake was full, the initial authorized purposes – power production, navigation, and flood control – could be fully realized. The lake was officially designated as Lake Sidney Lanier by Public Law 56-457 on March 29, 1956.

England’s job as Public Affairs Specialist is wide ranging: from internal idea-sharing and communications with all the park rangers in the Mobile District to revamping public-facing digital and social media.

He is also responsible for translating heavy scientific topics into easy-to-consume media for the public, receiving public complaints and making sure they reach the right contact within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. England drafts press releases, media advisories and public service announcements for the Mobile District Projects.

Most importantly, England’s role as a Public Affairs Specialist has him informing the public through a variety of mediums about what the Corps is doing at their local lake.

“It’s important to understand what your local government entities are doing around you,” he said, “and I takes on that responsibility as well.”

The job is right up his alley

“Last October, I took chance and left my park ranger job at Allatoona Lake for a position with the Mobile District Public Affairs Office,” he said. “It’s just what I’ve always envisioned for myself and my career: helping people share information to do their jobs better, improving relationships and communications between park rangers and the public, attracting more collaborations with area businesses, maximizing work with Corps volunteers and raising positive awareness for the work our park rangers do every single day, from water safety to environmental restorations.”

Photos: courtesy USACOE

Water-Safety Tips

Wear a life jacket. It has to fit to work, so make sure it buckles or zips up, and that you can’t pull it over your ears.

Alcohol and water don’t mix, being intoxicated on, near, or around the lake is dangerous.

Have a swimming buddy, or a shared float plan. Never find yourself alone on the water, especially if people don’t know you’re out there.