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‘Our thank you to them’: Corps, Friends of Lake Lanier celebrate first responders
First responders
Officials from several local agencies around Lake Lanier show off plaques from the Friends of Lake Lanier during the annual First Responders Appreciation Luncheon on Wednesday, Oct. 12. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

After a busy summer handling emergencies on Lake Lanier, first responders recently had their own chance to eat and relax.

On Wednesday, Oct. 12, members of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and nonprofit group Friends of Lake Lanier hosted the annual First Responders Appreciation Luncheon at Land Shark Bar and Grill at Lake Lanier Islands, where firefighters, police, EMS and other emergency personnel were celebrated for their work to keep the lake safe.

Along with state and federal agencies, the luncheon celebrated first responders from all five counties surrounding Lake Lanier: Dawson, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Hall and Lumpkin.

“We’ve done a few of these in the past, but Lake Lanier is such a big, diverse location, a big recreation program,” said Tim Rainey, Corps operations project manager for Lake Lanier. “We at the Corps manage that, but doing so, we heavily rely on adjacent jurisdictions’ law enforcement, first responders, fire, medical, whatever the case may be. I’ve always had an appreciation for the first responders that not only support our park rangers but the visitors to Lake Lanier.”

Rainey said more than 12 million visitors come to the lake each year and the efforts of first responders are vital for keeping the lake safe.

While some Corps park rangers may have individual training, Rainey said they are focused on helping lake visitors and do not have law enforcement authority, meaning fires, arrests and other duties are often handled by the surrounding counties and cities.

“Our park rangers are out there doing their job also, but ours is what’s called visitors assistance,” Rainey said. “We want the visitors to have a good time and a safe time, and we can do what we can do within our authority, then the rest falls on our local authorities. So, this is our thank you to them for being there and doing what they do.”

Along with a free meal for those in attendance, members of the agencies were also presented with a plaque donated by Friends of Lake Lanier, a nonprofit organization that benefits the Corps and their programming.

“They ask us to help appreciate everybody,” said Alysia Cahn, acting president of the group. “So, we invite all of the agencies that work with them that represent this lake and we try to take care of them.”

Cahn said the event gave the responders a chance to relax and talk with each other that was not during an emergency.

“It’s nice that they can kind of chill and relax, have lunch together instead of doing CPR or searching for a body,” she said. “So, this is great camaraderie and a little bit of downtime for them.”

While accepting a plaque on behalf of the Hall County Fire Department, Lt. Shane Peck thanked members of other agencies for their work on the lake and coming together during emergencies.

“I want to comment on how well we all work together,” Peck said. “I brag how well all the various agencies come together, work as one team, to make this lake as safe as we can.”

Forsyth County Fire Department Div. Chief Jason Shivers said when there is an emergency on the lake, multiple agencies usually respond and along with a meal and chance to talk, events like the luncheon are an opportunity to network, talk about training and get to know other personnel.

“It’s important for us all to get together and enjoy some time because we all work together so much on the lake. No event on Lake Lanier is handled by a single agency. It’s just not possible,” Shivers said.

“We have to be able to work together, and, so often, when an event occurs on the lake itself, you never know which jurisdiction you’re in at the time of the event. So, we all coordinate together, we work together very, very well, and it’s a great opportunity for us to break bread together and have a few minutes to have some camaraderie outside of an emergency response.”

Cahn said the luncheon is typically held near the end of Lake Lanier’s summer season when traffic is slowing down but other meals are hosted before big weekends to allow emergency personnel to discuss how they plan to handle potential emergencies.

“It feels good to take care of them,” Cahn said, “and we hope that they know they’re appreciated.”

To donate, volunteer or find more information on Friends of Lake Lanier, go to https://friendsoflakelanier.org or email friendsoflakelanier@gmail.com.