PITTSBURGH – Park rangers across the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District have been preparing for the upcoming recreation season throughout the winter months.
"Recreation season provides us a platform to get out and do what we signed up to do. Park rangers love being outdoors and working with the public. This is the time when we can allow our imaginations to run wild by coming up with different interpretive programs and events to connect with the visiting public," Alex Stevenson, northern area park ranger.
Across the Pittsburgh District, rangers and maintenance staff operate 16 reservoirs and dams that offer flood protection to the broader region. Of those, 15 projects provide recreation to the public. Some activities remain open year-round, depending on the location. Still, most visitors come between April and September to enjoy camping, boating, disc golfing, hiking, biking, visiting tours, picnicking, and more.
Most project sites also host special cleanup events or other projects to improve the lands and lakes during Earth Day, inviting volunteers to lend a hand.
While the parks may seem quiet before spring, rangers and maintenance workers spend months preparing for summer visitors.
"The ultimate goal is to provide a clean, safe, and presentable area for our visitors to use," said Stevenson.
Each year, after the recreation season ends, the team begins to prepare for the following year's season. Rangers and maintenance workers pick up fallen trees, repair damaged signs, put a new coat of paint on benches, clear out brush, lay new gravel, place new borders to improve the campsites, and more. They also perform routine maintenance and winterize the facilities.
They take a short pause in maintenance during the coldest months, focusing on more administrative tasks, but after the new year and the ground thaws, they go back to work preparing for the recreation season. They clear debris off the shorelines and other areas, double-check for fallen trees, reverse the steps previously taken to winterize the project, fix or replace fire rings and picnic tables, and many other small tasks.
Rangers also complete various annual training, including Mandatory Visitor Assistance Training. During the three-day event, rangers in the Pittsburgh District meet to review program updates, network with each other, and complete training in proper ranger uniform appearance, crisis management, self-defense, and using pepper spray.
Preparing for each recreation season can be challenging and time-consuming, but it is work rangers and maintenance workers throughout the Pittsburgh District perform with pride. Their efforts ensure federal lands and lakes are safe and beautiful areas for visitors to enjoy with friends and family.
For people who want to learn more about what their local reservoir has to offer, they can visit: https://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/Lakes