WILLIAMS: A reminder of the need for safety on Lake Lanier

As the Chairman of the Board of Lake Lanier Islands Management Company -- a corporation founded on the principles of promoting Lake Sidney Lanier as a safe place for families to play and make happy memories -- I want to let your readers know that the recent senseless tragedy and the loss of the lives of two young boys serves to strengthen my resolve to improve boating safety on Lake Lanier.

Although the resort was in no way connected to the recent accident that claimed the lives of these two young boys, it comes as a stern reminder of a very serious concern to all lakeside homeowners, business owners connected with the lake and especially boaters and visitors who enjoy this beautiful lake that we all share. Together, I know we can proactively create a safer Lake Sidney Lanier.

Lake Lanier Islands has 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. As in the past, we will continue to be involved in the following efforts here at Lake Lanier Islands Resort:

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 facilitation of a civil, relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere.

We 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 around our busy new Sunset Cove beachside venue.

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. Our staff is trained to rigorously enforce the alcohol laws of the state of Georgia requiring identification for age, in addition to refusing service to intoxicated people. When necessary and appropriate, overnight boat parking is encouraged at our community docks for guests who may feel unable to safely drive their boat to their own dock or marina.

While Lake Lanier Islands Resort cannot solve this problem by itself, we can lead the charge for change by promoting a partnership with all of the lake community to improve boating safety. 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. To that end:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. We plan to initiate a Designated Boat Driver program that includes free cola products for that person during the day/evening of their visit to the Islands.

5. 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.

6. We are initiating an effort that involves an ongoing strategic partnership between Lake Lanier Islands, the Lake Lanier Islands Authority, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau and local law enforcement to ensure a safer Lake Lanier for all of our visitors.

Lake Lanier Islands Resort is also dedicated to partnering with the surrounding community including the Lake Lanier Association, the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Marine Trade Association. An effort like this could be very helpful in years to come to and go a long way to prevent the reoccurrence of similar future tragic boating accidents. In the event that readers have ideas that might aid in the promotion of bater safety on Lake Lanier, I invite them to express their thoughts by email at boatsafe@lakelanierislands.com.

Virgil Williams is Chairman of the Board or The Lake Lanier Islands Management Company.