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Safety Congress honors gorge’s Safe Kids

RECREATIONISTS STOP by a Life Jacket Loaner Board in the Columbia Gorge to borrow life vests before enjoying their day.

Corps of Engineers photo
RECREATIONISTS STOP by a Life Jacket Loaner Board in the Columbia Gorge to borrow life vests before enjoying their day.

The National Water Safety Congress recently recognized the Safe Kids Columbia Gorge chapter for its outstanding efforts, accomplishments and contributions to the Corps of Engineers water safety mission, honoring them with an Award of Merit.

The Corps nominated Safe Kids Columbia Gorge water safety program in 2013 for the organization’s five years of commitment.

Safe Kids Columbia Gorge has partnered with park rangers from The Dalles Lock and Dam since 2008, helping to promote water safety to local communities throughout the gorge — an area encompassing five counties in both Oregon and Washington along the Columbia River.

“The partnership with Safe Kids has been a successful and productive one,” said Kelly Thomas, a natural resources manager at the dam. “Safe Kids has worked with us to staff educational booths at local outreach events, has included our information and resources about water safety on their website and has also provided the Corps with donated supplies and materials. Without them, our water safety program in the local community would not be as successful.”

Safe Kids actively contributes to the Corps’ Water Safety Program in a number of ways. It supports an annual water safety poster contest held at The Dalles Middle School by supplying poster materials and awarding the grand prize winners with free life jackets. The posters, made on brown paper bags, are distributed to the local farmers market and food bank, which in turn, helps spread the water safety message even further into the community.

One of its most significant contributions to the region, however, was establishment and implementation of a Life Jacket Loaner Board Program in the Columbia Gorge. With guidance from the Corps, the organization had eight life jacket loaner stations purchased and installed at local swim beaches and boat launches in both Oregon and Washington.

Visitation estimates indicate that more than 700,000 people visited these eight locations from May through August — and were able to access and borrow a life jacket (if they didn’t already have one) while recreating on the Columbia River.

“The Corps’ nationwide life jacket loaner board program has proven to help reduce water-related fatalities,” said Melissa Rinehart, a natural resources manager in the Portland District’s Natural Resource Management Office. “If you provide the public with safe options for recreating, they’ll use them — and we’re lucky to have partners like Safe Kids to help us implement these programs at the local level.”

Safe Kids Columbia Gorge — on behalf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District, and The Dalles Lock and Dam, we thank you.

More information about Safe Kids Columbia Gorge is available at For specific details about the Corps of Engineers’ Life Jacket Loaner Board Program in the Columbia Gorge, visit under the module titled “Borrow a life jacket.”

Amber Tilton works for The Dalles Lock and Dam.


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