Corps’ Lake Cumberland resource manager recognized for promoting water safety

Story by Leon Roberts
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District

The resource manager at Lake Cumberland and Laurel River Lake in Kentucky has been recognized for promoting water safety, spearheading public outreach activities and several marketing campaigns that reached more than two million people in eastern Kentucky.

Jeffrey F. Krause, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Natural Resources Management chief, recently announced that Jonathan Friedman, Nashville District, is the 2022 Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Water Safety Employee of the Year for his work engaging the public about recreating safely on the water.

In announcing the winners of the 2022 USACE Water Safety Awards from the National Boating Federation, Krause congratulated all award winners across the Corps of Engineers for effectively addressing boating and water safety to save lives on the nation’s waterways.

More than three million people visited Lake Cumberland and Laurel River Lake in fiscal year 2021, making boating and water safety crucial, especially during peak visitations on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day weekends.

To reach the public, Friedman sought creative, original and fresh ideas. He worked with his team to create exciting water safety materials that could be provided by park rangers to lake visitors and boaters. The staff even acquired and passed out 1,000 food-grade, dishwasher-safe, silicone cups with the Corps’ water safety logo.

Throughout the pandemic, the lake staff never stopped reaching out to schools. Friedman enlisted two Lake Cumberland Area District students who worked at the Resource Manager’s Office and put together hundreds of water safety bags to hand out to kids.

Friedman also partnered with Kentucky Living Magazine, which has a readership of one million, to reach a large portion of the target audience that recreates at both Corps lakes. The magazine published graphics in two issues promoting the National Water Safety Campaign “Life Jackets Worn… Nobody Mourns” and website Promoting water safety in the magazine is a significant achievement because it reached 464,000 households and demographics for water safety outreach.

Finally, he championed an effort with The Corps Foundation to purchase marketing space at Somerset Cinemas 27, Drive-In 27 and London Cinemas 8. The theaters also posted water safety posters in food courts to help support water safety. Water safety videos played during every showing from Aug. 15 to Sept. 15.

Lt. Col. Joseph Sahl, Nashville District commander, said through Friedman’s innovative use of multiple mediums and creative products, the greatest number of visitors to Corps water resource projects received the water safety message.

“His work directly contributed to the safety, health, and enjoyment of the public at Lake Cumberland and Laurel River Lake,” Sahl said. “His leadership and professionalism are representative of his great team and exemplify the Army values and the Corps’ commitment to providing safe and enjoyable recreation experiences for all visitors.”

Lake Cumberland hosts 10 concession marinas, and business has been booming. Lee’s Ford Marina is expanding a parking lot. The Marina at Rowena is developing an entirely new section of the leased area with new campgrounds, slips, parking lots and docks. Lake Cumberland Marina is expanding their lease area. Partner agencies like the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Service have requests in to expand and develop their managed boat ramps and parking areas to be responsive to the growth and interest in Lake Cumberland.

“All this development suggests new boaters, anglers, water skiers, and overall water-based recreation activity,” Friedman said. “Water safety is ever more critical to educate and familiarize this ever-growing surge in activity on and around our Corps reservoirs.”

Friedman said he is beyond honored, and surprised by the recognition, but said the spotlight really shines on the entire Lake Cumberland team for working so hard to make water safety a priority.

“Hopefully the award is a direct reflection of lives saved at Lake Cumberland and Laurel River Lake,” Friedman said. “We’ll never know about that person who saw the water safety promotion in the Somerset Movie Theater, and then remembered to put on their life jacket… an action ultimately saving their life.”

Michael Lapina, Nashville District operations manager for the Eastern Kentucky Area, said the entire team is honored to have a member of the team recognized for his hard work and dedication to public service.

“Jonathan has reinvigorated the team by setting the example of being proactive with respect to water safety,” Lapina said. “This has had a positive effect on a team that already has a deep passion for visitor safety. The recognition is well deserved. Jonathan demonstrates and builds esprit de corps, which is critical in so many areas, including protecting people from water.”

Friedman’s team just completed nine days supporting and staffing a booth at the Lake Cumberland Marine Show to address questions about the lake and to promote water safety. The staff also renovated and restocked the life jacket stations at Laurel River Lake in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Holly Bay Marina and is moving forward on a partnership with Pulaski County and KYFWS to build lifesaving and life-jacket stations at Lake Cumberland.

“As you can see, it is truly a team effort and all credit goes to the staff,” Friedman said.