In boating vernacular, "setting a course" means to plot one's journey before raising the sails in hopes of arriving at one's destination safely. As the chairman of the board for Islands Management Company, the entity responsible for the operations of Lake Lanier Islands Resort, I feel it is high time we - as a cohesive community -proactively set our course for a safer Lake Sidney Lanier together.
The recent tragedy on the lake that resulted in the senseless and tragic loss of the lives of two young boys should sound a warning signal to all lakeside homeowners, businesses associated with the lake, visitors to the parks and attractions on the lake, and especially boaters on this beautiful lake we all share.
For the past seven years, Lake Lanier Islands Resort has promoted Lake Sidney Lanier as a safe place for families to play and make happy memories together. To that end, we have always been fully committed to supporting the sheriffs and police for Hall, Gwinnett and Forsyth counties, in addition to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Rangers, in any way possible to educate boaters and improve boating safety on Lake Lanier.
We regularly partner with the Hall County Sheriff's Department to provide a visible presence on the Islands, clearly communicating that we support their laws, and wish to facilitate a civil, relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere. We also promote boating safety through our own marina at "Harbor Landing" and have long advocated the additional use of navigation buoys and channel markers around our shores, and particularly in the vicinity of our busy new "Sunset Cove" beachside venue.
Our servers and bar staff are trained to rigorously enforce the alcohol laws of the state of Georgia requiring identification for age, in addition to refusing service to intoxicated persons.
We are currently adding approximately 160 new boat parking slips and explicit channel markers in the "Cove" to improve boating safety while near our shores, and will encourage overnight boat parking at our community docks for guests who may feel unable to safely drive their boat to their own dock or marina when necessary and appropriate.
While Lake Lanier Islands Resort cannot solve the ongoing issue of boating safety on all 38,000 surface acres of the lake by itself, we can lead the charge for change by promoting a partnership with all members of the Lake Lanier community to take a hands-on approach to protecting boaters, swimmers and water sports enthusiasts on our waters. In the coming weeks and months, Lake Lanier Islands Resort along with the board at the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority will develop further initiatives designed to increase boating safety on our lake. Some of these first proposed solutions include:
Lake Lanier Islands Resort and its partners will develop a "Boater Safety" promotional campaign that will be disseminated through signage, advertisements, press releases, collateral materials and social media.
We will continue to pursue the employment of navigation buoys and channel markers throughout the waters that surround the Islands, along with any other site safety improvements.
We will extend the LLIDA-approved Courtesy Dock program already in place at Lake Lanier Islands Resort, which is designed to provide both order and safety for boaters and swimmers alike at the Islands' recreational areas.
We plan to initiate a "Designated Boat Driver" program that includes free soft drink products for that person during the day/evening of their visit to the Islands.
We hope to also partner with the U.S. Power Squadron or other similar organizations to develop a Boating Safety Education program, and assist them by providing a place for boating safety training and classes at the resort.
We are initiating an effort that involves an ongoing strategic partnership between Lake Lanier Islands, the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Marine Trade Association, The Lake Lanier Association, and local law enforcement to ensure a safer Lake Lanier for all of our visitors.
Each of these endeavors could go a long way toward preventing future boating accidents and tragedies similar to the one the entire Lake Lanier community mourns today. By working together to set our course, I have no doubt we can navigate our way past these troubled waters to arrive at our destination of a much safer Lake Lanier. That said, all lakeside homeowners, boaters, law enforcement officials, local business owners and longtime fans of Lake Lanier are invited to submit their own ideas that might aid in the promotion of boater safety by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virgil R. Williams is the chairman of the board of Islands Management Company, which operates the Lake Lanier Islands Resort.