“More people are using the resource and, of course, when more people are at [one] place, it’s more potential for having problems,” said Georgia DNR Cpl. Chip Cox, referring to the boat ramps between the Thompson-Weinman Dam and Euharlee. “And we’ve been seeing so many people on the river that we are trying to guard against someone having a bad accident — what we’re trying to actually prevent is someone from drowning just because they don’t have a life jacket. The same rules apply to the river as apply at the lake, at Allatoona Lake. When we first noticed this increase in traffic, we were checking people getting out at the boat ramp or if we were on [the] river and [pulled] up [near] some people, one of the things we kept hearing was ‘I didn’t know that we needed a life jacket if I’m on a tube.’
“... If you use [items, such as kayaks or inner tubes] to go from one point to another point, it’s considered a vessel and all those vessels are required to have all the same safety equipment. In this particular instance, a round inner tube or a blow up float is considered a vessel and you’re required by law to have one wearable life jacket per person on board. You don’t have to have it on. You don’t have to wear it. That’s not the law. The law is that it has to be accessible and ready to use unless you’re under the age of 10. Under the age of 10 has to wear a life jacket in a moving vessel.”
To better inform the public, Cox reached out to Ladd Floyd, who maintains one of the boat ramps, to install a kiosk structure similar to those at Lake Allatoona. Built near the Etowah River, the kiosk currently features boating details and loaner life jackets.
“I [have not placed] any time frame or time limits on [using the life jackets],” Cox said. “I just put a little page in there saying these are loaner life jackets, please use them and enjoy them but return them [so] others can use them. And I put all kinds [of sizes]. I put adult life jackets [and] I put some little baby life jackets in there [because] you have to have a life jacket that is of the correct size.
“... DNR is not about writing tickets. We’re about trying to keep people from getting hurt. We certainly will write citations or tickets if we have to. We just don’t want to. So I thought instead of getting a bunch of people mad and enforcing it that way, we decided that this would be the best way to go and we’ve gotten a good public response from it.”
Helping Cox’s idea come to fruition, Floyd donated his time and supplies to build a kiosk. Along with the DNR’s loaner life jackets and boating information, Floyd also posted a request on the structure for people not to trespass on private property along with river.
“We’ve [also] got [a] sign just mentioning about cleaning up the property — just keeping the property clean, keeping the river clean, not disturbing other people on the river, being respectful to all the other people around,” Floyd said. “... We just try to work with the DNR. It’s something they kind of wanted there so we want to help them out. ... We want everybody to be safe while they’re down there.”