A team of National Park Service scuba divers partnered with community members in Fredonia to teach the town’s children about water safety, while completing annual recertification training on June 14, 2016.

The dive team conducted training in front of an audience of children ranging in age from six to 13, provided a water safety talk, and introduced the kids to the team’s underwater recovery robot, providing a hands-on learning environment to emphasize the importance of safety around water.

The dive team is the Glen Canyon Underwater Recovery Unit. Their mission involves underwater maintenance, scientific work, and victim recovery after drownings at Lake Powell. Pat Horning, the Dive Officer for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, said it is because of the tragic work the team is called to that gave him the idea to partner with communities near the park to teach water safety.

“Because I do underwater recovery, water safety is incredibly important to me,” Horning said. “I would like to work myself out of the job of body recovery.”

Fredonia is a little more than an hour from Lake Powell and many of the families go to the lake in summer to recreate. Amanda Waters, manager of the Fredonia community pool, and mother of two of the children in attendance, said she felt the training hit home with real-life examples and hands-on experience.

“The kids really enjoyed it and seemed to learn new things about water safety from the presentation,” Waters said. “My daughter Dani, in particular, kept talking about the training all day and asking questions about water safety. It was great. My other daughter Mikelle got to try running the controls on the robot, and she thought that was the best part.”

Horning said the Glen Canyon Underwater Recovery Unit received the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Unit Award for Excellence in 2015 for 25 years of outstanding service. Among the team’s achievements, they hold the record for deepest victim recovery by divers in a national park at 193 feet, and the deepest victim recovery by robot anywhere at 493 feet. 

“This program has been my life’s work,” Horning said, “so cultivating these relationships with the surrounding community to keep the program going, and at the same time, provide safety tips to kids to help keep them safe. It doesn’t get any better than that. I was really impressed with how polite and respectful the kids were. They were pretty young, but they paid great attention.”

Waters said she was pleased with how well the renowned dive team related to the approximately 20 kids who came to the water safety event.

“I was very impressed with the professionalism of the whole dive team,” Waters said. “They were kind and courteous to the kids and everyone there, and they were really great at interacting with the kids. The kids especially loved the two scuba divers that talked to them from the water. I’ve never set anything like this up before, but I thought it was a huge success. I’m already thinking about setting this up again next year.”