Safe Kids Columbus, other partners establish life jacket loaner stations across Chattahoochee Valley

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 2:43 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Drowning incidents in the Chattahoochee Valley from over the years are prompting several local agencies and cities to team up to make sure people are being safe while enjoying the waterways this summer.

The unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day weekend, is here and with that comes more folks on the water. With that in mind, Safe Kids Columbus along Safe Kids Columbus and the River Safety Committee in conjunction with the Sea Tow Foundation, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Georgia Power, the City of Columbus, the Department of Natural Resources, Harris County, GA, Russell County, Alabama, Lake Harding Neighborhood Association, and 1827 Realty, and other agencies want to make sure you’re being safe.

According to Pam Fair with Safe Kids Columbus, the loaner stations sit in Muscogee, Harris, Lee and Russell counties. Coast guard approved life jackets are free for people to access when enjoying area rivers and lakes like this one at like Oliver Marina in Columbus.

”So there are seven loaner stations at area boat ramps for boaters and those who are going to be enjoying the lakes to access a life jacke,” said Fair. “And as you follow our river up into Harris County - there’s the Peggy Lane Boat Ramp. There’s Po boys Landing on the Alabama side, the Long Bridge Boat Ramp on the Alabama side and then of course there’s the Idle Hour and Valley Park Boat Ramp and the Blanton Creek Boat Ramp. So we put together a River Safety Committee and that committee began to develop plans and initiatives that would help us reduce those drownings.”

A total of seven life jacket loaner stations have been created:

  • Lake Oliver Marina— 5501 River Road in Columbus, GA
  • Goat Rock Lake Marina— Peggy Lane Boat Ramp in Fortson, GA
  • Po Boys Landing— 61 County Road 335 in Salem, AL
  • Long Ridge Boat Ramp— Near Backwaters Marina in Valley, AL
  • Valley Park Recreation Area— Off Lake Harding in Valley, AL
  • Idle Hour Boat Ramp— Off Mountain Drive in Hamilton, GA
  • Blanton Creek Campground— 6111 Lick Skillet Road in Hamilton, GA

These stations have life jackets people may borrow at no cost for the day then return when they’re finished safely enjoying the water.

All they ask is you put the life jackets back when you’re done using them. Fair went on to say the loaner stations are a response to drownings in the area from previous years.

According to data from Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital, Columbus averages just over five drownings a year since 2017. The hope behind the loaner stations is to cut that number down to zero.

The full list of loaner station locations can be found here.