Better Boating In Connecticut – Introduction
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Better Boating In Connecticut – Introduction

September 3, 2019

welcome to the Department of Energy Environmental
Protection’s new show called Better Boating
in Connecticut. Each month, we’ll bring you
new and exciting information about clean and safe boating. I’m your host, Wendy
Flynn, and today, we just want to give an overview of
what the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation within the DEEP does. Today with me, I have Colonel
Kyle Overturf, Bureau Chief Mike Lambert, and Boating Law
Administrator Eleanor Mariani. Thank you all for joining me. So I just want to start with
going over our mission– what we all do. So Mike, do you want to start? MICHAEL LAMBERT: Sure. The Bureau of
Outdoor Recreation is responsible for the
conservation and management of statewide recreation, lands,
and resources for public use. And in Connecticut,
those lands and resources consist of state parks, state
forests, and boating access areas or state boat launches. Our primary goal
in the Bureau is to provide public
use and access that is consistent with the
protection of the state’s natural resources. The Bureau is part of the
Environmental Conservation branch of the Department
of Energy and Environmental Protection and includes
three distinct divisions, two of which we’ll learn more
about today– the Boating Division and Environmental
Conservation Police Division; and the third is the State
Parks and Public Outreach Division that
includes management of all of our state parks. And each one of these
divisions has a unique mission that supports the public’s
use of Connecticut’s outdoor recreation resources. WENDY FLYNN: Great, thank you. Eleanor, do you want to
give a little overview of what Boating does? ELEANOR MARIANI: Sure So
in the Boating Division, we want to make sure that
the boaters of Connecticut have places to
launch their boats, so we have 118 state boat
launches for them to do that. One of the other things that
is critical to our mission is making sure that we
reduce boating fatalities and accidents on our waters. And then we also want
to empower the boaters to make sound
environmental choices when they’re out there boating. We do a couple of things. As I mentioned, we have
the 118 boat launches so people can get to the water. We also have a boating
infrastructure program that’s funded by US Fish
and Wildlife Service, and that provides access
to transient boaters on coastal Long Island
Sound so that they can get to shore, generally speaking. And then also we
provide money, again, through the US fish and
Wildlife Service to do the boat launches– that’s where we
get the money for that– and then we also get money
for the Clean Vessel Act, and that allows boaters to find
places to pump out and remove boat sewage. So combined, that’s kind of in
a nutshell what our mission is. WENDY FLYNN: Sounds like
a lot of work, thank you. Colonel? COL. KYLE OVERTURF: The
mission of the Environmental Conservation Police is natural
resource protection and public safety through education,
outreach, and enforcement. The office of our division
support all the other programs within the agency. So we’re doing
enforcement for inland and commercial and
marine fisheries, doing hunting enforcement, doing
traditional law enforcement and public safety in Connecticut
state parks and forests, we assist with the
enforcement for the Department of Agricultural
Shellfish program– so we have a very diverse and
unique enforcement program within the division. We support hunt enforcement
through teaching the Connecticut–
the conservation education environmental
safety program, we assist the voting division
not only through patrols but our officers assist with the
boating education program also. WENDY FLYNN: OK, great. Thank you very much. So Eleanor, when I
had introduced you, I said you were boating
law administrator. What exactly does that do? ELEANOR MARIANI: OK. So in addition to being the
director for the Boating Division, I also am the
Boating Law Administrator. And what that does is we
have through the Coast Guard, we work really closely with
the Coast Guard to make sure that our waters are safe. And one of the
things that the Coast Guard relies upon the
states for is inland waters. So we get a grant
from the Coast Guard to help us with
recreational boating safety. And one of the things that the
Boating Law Administrator does is to make sure that we comply
with all the requirements– we have to register a
certain number of boats, we have to make
sure that we have a memorandum with the
local Coast Guard, we have to have a
boating accident– we collect the data for
them and provide that to the Coast Guard,
and we have to have mandatory boating education–
or an education program. We’ve developed a mandatory
education program back in ’93, in 1993, so we’ve been
implementing that for awhile– but not every state has
a mandatory education but Connecticut does. And there’s a National
Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and this
group kind of works together– that’s a nonprofit that works on
the national level to make sure that– they really assist the states
in carrying out their mission for boating safety
and they do it through a few different ways. They help to pass policy so
that there’s uniform laws, and then they also provide
education to the states so that they can be
better at what they do. WENDY FLYNN: OK. So there’s– each state has
a boating law administrator? ELEANOR MARIANI: Yes, yep– every state has a boating
law administrator and then the territories also of the US. WENDY FLYNN: OK. So Mike, can you give
us a little overview of how Connecticut
differs from other states? What makes us fantastic? MICHAEL LAMBERT: Well,
organizationally, there are many similarities
in the makeup of the Bureau of Outdoor
Recreation with other states’ recreation divisions. I was fortunate to work
with North Carolina State Parks for 21 years prior
to coming to Connecticut. And here in Connecticut, we have
a professional and dedicated workforce that manages our
outdoor recreation resources. They care about the
resources they manage and they work very hard to
provide outstanding customer services to the public. Although small in
area, Connecticut provides a wealth of outdoor
recreation opportunities for the public with miles
of Long Island Sound shoreline and hundreds of inland
water bodies and water courses this state can support– virtually any water-based
recreation imaginable. And with few
exceptions, the same is also true for the land-based
recreation opportunities. With over 255,000 acres of
land in parks and forest, the state can support a variety
of recreation opportunities on the public lands
that we manage. WENDY FLYNN: OK, great. You know, from the sound of
it, with all the infrastructure that we have with it going
on within the Boating Division, the pump outs, the
boat launches, education, and– colonel, you talked
about all of your tasks that you have to
do within the state to help support all of
these projects and programs. What makes the environmental
conservation police so unique? You know, besides
doing the hunting, what else do you guys do? COL. KYLE OVERTURF: Our officers
are fully-certified police officers in
Connecticut, so we do quite a bit of traditional
law enforcement and criminal enforcement
in our state parks. But along with that, our
officers’ primary mission is natural resource protection
and natural resource law enforcement. So they have to have a very good
understanding of Connecticut’s fish and wildlife
laws, and they also have to be
specially-trained to operate on vessels, all-terrain
vehicles, and things like that. We had a boating accident
reconstruction unit that goes out to scenes of
serious and fatal boating accidents and works those cases. We have a chemical
mobilization team that goes to threats when we
have bear or deer that are causing a public safety issue. And a good example
is our K-9 unit. We have five canine
officers and their partners, and all are trained in
evidence detection and search and rescue, but three are
also specially-trained in fish and wildlife detection. So while a local or state
police have a canine unit that does tracking and
things like that, ours are specially-trained for
fish and wildlife detection. So that’s what makes us
unique and specialized. WENDY FLYNN: So do you guys,
besides all the fish and game and hunting and boating
and tranquilizing bears if necessary, do you
guys have to stop anyone on the highway or the local
street or anything like that? COL. KYLE OVERTURF:
Well, our mission is pretty easy– we try to
stay within conservation law enforcement and natural
resource protection, but if there is a public safety
issue like a DWI or someone driving under the influence
or reckless driving, our officers are authorized–
encouraged– to make that motor vehicle stop for public safety. WENDY FLYNN: OK. Wow, that’s a lot of work. Eleanor, can we– just talk
about some of the trends in boating. The colonel brought a
few up, but maybe you could just talk about
some of the other trends that you’re seeing
within the state. ELEANOR MARIANI: All right. Nationally, what’s happening
is pretty much mimics what’s happening in Connecticut. You know, alcohol
is still an issue. Right now, alcohol– and
when we say alcohol use, it’s, say, a fatality
involves alcohol is kind of what we’re were thinking of. Right now, about 19% of the
fatal accidents or– excuse me– 19% of the accidents
nationally involve alcohol. We’re seeing that– and
when we look at fatalities, we see that about 27% of the
fatalities involve alcohol. And while that’s– I mean,
that’s like 27%, that’s more, you know, than a quarter of
our accidents involve alcohol, so we know that’s one thing
that we need to concentrate on in trying to convey to the
public how dangerous that can be. But we’re quite
proud of the fact that if we look at
the last five years, the alcohol rate was 56% was– 56% of the accidents, the
fatalities involved alcohol. So we’ve come down
44%, so if we look 10 years– take a 10-year span. If we look at five years
and then five years, in that 10-year span,
we’ve brought it down to 27%, that’s
a 44% decrease. So while we’re
doing really good, we still need to make
sure that we let folks know how dangerous alcohol is. So, you know,
alcohol is one issue. The other thing is– drowning is still a
major problem nationally and it’s a major
problem in Connecticut. year In the last two years,
we had 10 boating fatalities from drowning and none
of them had life jackets. And we know– none of them
were wearing life jackets– and we know that if people
are wearing life jackets, there’s a really good chance
that they will survive. So, you know, our
point is to let people know how important these
are, and with the life jackets nowadays, really easy to wear. I mean, they have the
belt packs and they have the suspender
type inflatables, so it’s easy for people
to wear life jackets so we certainly recommend that. And, you know, just
another point on that is, it seems as if once you
end up out of the boat, your chances for not
surviving increase a lot. You would think that the
fatalities are related to high speed crashes and
things like that, but when we look at fatalities–
and the whole thing is to minimize risk– we see that the high
speed collisions really, in the last 10 years,
accounted for 5% of the fatals. But if you look at when
people fall out of boats or swamp their boats,
that accounts for 36% of our boating fatalities. So you can see that it’s not
that high speed crash that’s causing it, it’s really just
people falling out of the boats and not having life jackets on. So, you know, those are
some of the major trends. WENDY FLYNN: Do people have
to wear their life jackets when they’re on a boat? ELEANOR MARIANI: There’s
certain times that they do. So anybody operating a personal
watercraft or a jet ski, they have to wear life jackets. And it’s interesting,
because those are not the folks that are dying, it’s
the other folks that are not– that are in other boats. So if somebody’s towing
a water skier, the people in the water that
are being towed, they’re required to
wear life jackets. And then the other
group that’s required is paddlers in
manually-propelled vessels would have to wear one from
October 1 through May 31st. WENDY FLYNN: OK. Wow, that’s a good
amount of information, it makes me want to wear my
life jacket all the time. So Mike, I’d like to just
switch gears a little bit. Let’s talk about some
parks a little bit. I think we have a slide
for the park’s web site. That we’re going to
bring up, and if you just want to talk a little bit of
what people might see when they visit our parks web site. MICHAEL LAMBERT: Absolutely. The park’s web page
is the main source of information for the
public, and there’s a wealth of information
available on this site. The site gives you
the historical context of the State Parks
Division, the history of state parks in Connecticut. One of the tools that
I like on the web site is you can actually
search by activity, and we talked a little bit
about the unique recreation activities that
Connecticut offers. Well, you can search
by that on the web site and you’ll be able
to find an area. So for example, if
you want to go biking, you choose that activity
and that will bring you to all the opportunities, all
the parks and forests that would allow you to do
that in Connecticut. There is information on
campground reservations, volunteer opportunities– we depend on volunteers to
assist us in many of our parks and it’s a great way
to sign up and to be active in your local park. There’s information on the
No Child Left Inside program. There’s going to be some
upcoming events this summer, and so definitely
go to the web page to learn about
all the activities that are occurring in parks. But it’s a great source of
information for anything state parks. WENDY FLYNN: Great,
yeah, I think I just saw one of those
No Child Left Insides that happened
earlier in February. I think some of our boating
staff was there as well. MICHAEL LAMBERT: We had a
fantastic event for the winter festival at Burr
Pond State Park. I had a number of families
come out and enjoy the park and had a great time. WENDY FLYNN: Great. It’s a great looking
web site, so. Eleanor, I want to– Parks has such a great website,
I know Boating does too. Would you like to talk a little
bit about the Boating web site? ELEANOR MARIANI: Sure, sure,
I would love to do that. So Parks has had a great
website for a while. We’ve just revamped
our web site, I’m really pretty
excited about it. We have information now
on all of our classes, so if somebody wants
to take a class, they can go and click
on it and find a class. We also have information
about our new program, which is the safe water
skiing endorsement, you can find
information about that. And one of the newest
things we’ve added, which I think is going to
be really helpful to people and it’s going to bring a lot
of people to the web site, is more information
on weather and tides and information that’s going
to be really helpful if you’re out there boating and you
need to know that we have information on winds, lots
of additional information that boaters if– it’s now all in one
place, so we invite you to come check that out. We also have these
great interactive maps that you can check
out for finding boat launches
throughout the state and also all our
pump out facilities. So there’s a lot of
information on there and we encourage people
to come and check it out. WENDY FLYNN: So on
these interactive maps, I can search for them, you know,
by town or is– there’s a map? ELEANOR MARIANI: Yep. So there’s a map, you
can check by town, you could just check also by–
if you know a certain boat launch, you can just go
directly there or you can– if you know a general area
that you want to boat in now, you could just look at
the map and click on it and it will bring
you to the site. And once it brings
you to the site, it tells you what the laws
are for that water body and how many parking
spaces we have if we have a state
boat launch there. So it’s a lot of information. WENDY FLYNN: Awesome. So this past weekend,
I was at the– I went up to the boat
show that’s up in Hartford and I picked up my 2017
copy of the Boater’s Guide. And right in the middle
of the Boater’s Guide, there was this
huge fantastic map that showed all of boat launches
and pump out facilities and– oh, there it is! So how did this come about? Because I think this
is a great resource. ELEANOR MARIANI: Yeah,
this is pretty exciting. We were kind of– or I should say, I was nervous
about having it all together, but I think it’s
worked out really well. Mark Chanski from
our division asked to be able to put this all–
all this information on one map and I think it’s really
going to work out well. So it shows where all the
state boat launches are and if there is a place that has
a water body but no state boat launch, it’ll be
a different color and you can then
find what regulation applies to that water body. It also shows all the
state boat launch– excuse me, all the pump
out facilities and even our newer boating
infrastructure facilities, so it’s going to
come in really handy. WENDY FLYNN: Well,
this map really does show a lot of the resources
that we have in Connecticut for boating, a lot
of the work, again, that it kind of has to do. So colonel, I just want to
switch gears a little bit and talk about what kind
of boating violation trends have you seen over the past
year or five years or even more? COL. KYLE OVERTURF:
We are consistent. We’re still finding
quite a few boaters not having the required
personal flotation devices either on their
vessel or wearing them when they should be. Our officers recognize
the importance of having them on board
or in wearing them when they’re supposed to, and
so our officers check for that quite often and it is still a
fairly common violation, which is surprising based on
the amount of outreach and education both our program
and the Boating Division goes regarding that. So that’s still
a concern for us, especially with opening day
of fishing season coming up. We have– it’s a cold
water time still, and fishermen are in smaller
boats in our smaller bodies of water and we
encourage– and it’s mandated– that they wear their
life jackets then, so that’s still a common violation. We’re still finding
people not having their personal
watercraft certificate, which is, again, surprising
since the amount of outreach and indication we’ve
done toward that. One thing we do work
on, even though we don’t make a lot of
cases every year, but we do an initiative for
boating under the influence. We do both patrol initiatives
and we work at the– nationally for the– with the national initiative
for boating under the influence, which is Operation Dry Water. We participate every year
along with quite a few cities and towns. So while that’s an
enforcement initiative, it’s also a public
outreach initiative to try and educate the
public on the dangers of boating while drinking. WENDY FLYNN: So this
Operation Dry Water, is this something that
we just do in the state or is it a specific date where
it’s like national or regional? COL. KYLE OVERTURF: It’s
a national initiative, it’s usually the second
or third weekend in June. So it’s nationwide, and
not only does our agency become involved in
Connecticut, but quite a few local and the state
police and the US Coast Guard get involved in
Connecticut also. So it’s a team
effort in the state to not only crack
down on drunk boaters, but also get the word out
about the dangers of boating under the influence. WENDY FLYNN: OK. All right, so I just want to
take our last few minutes here and talk about our last
thought of the day. So Eleanor, would you like to
give us your last thoughts? ELEANOR MARIANI: All right. Well, for one thing,
we really hope that you’ll join us again with
this new endeavor that we have. We’re pretty excited about it. We will be doing some
filming out in the field, perhaps to show people
how to back their trailer. I mean, we want to make
this really helpful for the boaters– better boating in Connecticut. So we know that
boating is serious fun and we invite you all
to get out on the water, have fun, and be safe. WENDY FLYNN: Thank you. Mike? Any last thoughts? MICHAEL LAMBERT:
Well, yeah, we are so fortunate here in
Connecticut to have outstanding natural resources. From the beautiful beaches
of Long Island Sound to the inland waterways to
parks with magnificent vistas, the state offers
many opportunities to get outside and
enjoy the outdoors. So we encourage the public
to go outside and discover for themselves
the diverse beauty and recreational opportunities
that Connecticut has to offer. WENDY FLYNN: Fantastic. Colonel. COL. KYLE OVERTURF: Sure. We like to think that we
improve the quality of life for the citizens of Connecticut
who recreated our state, but we’d also like to ask
their help in helping us with our mission by
reporting a violation, whether it’s a fish
and wildlife violation or a boating violation
to our dispatch center. We have a 24 hour dispatch
center, we have an 800 number, it’s toll free, it’s published
in the Boater’s Guide, it’s published in the
hunting and fishing guides, and it’s on our web site. So if the public
sees a violation, we really appreciate
their assistance when they call in
with that violation to help us with our mission. WENDY FLYNN: Great. Thank you. So I want to thank you
all for joining us. If you have any
questions or want to continue any of
these conversations, please call the Boating
Division or join us on our social media sites. And happy boating! [MUSIC PLAYING]

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