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Contact: Dan Johnson, (435) 781-7702
Contact: Mary Risser, (970) 374-3001
Dinosaur, CO - "I'm pleased to announce that River Office Manager Kelly Kager has received the Andrew Hecht Memorial Public Safety Award," stated Superintendent Mary Risser. "This award is the highest award bestowed by the National Park Service for outstanding public safety achievement. It is presented to an individual for efforts to prevent serious injuries or fatalities to the public. Out of the more than 390 National Park Service areas, Kelly was selected to receive this award because of her outstanding outreach efforts during the volatile 2011 season on Dinosaur's rivers."
In 2011, the Green and Yampa rivers saw the highest water levels in decades. The Yampa recorded the second highest flows in a century. For most of May, June, and July, water on the Green was four times as high as normal since the 1960s. These water levels presented vastly different conditions for Dinosaur's boaters than they were accustomed to. Because of Kelly's outreach, there were no fatalities or serious injuries on Dinosaur's rivers, and more than 11,000 visitors successfully experienced the wildness of Dinosaur.
Kelly worked closely with other staff members to develop a new webpage about the high water conditions and provided constantly changing information so it always reflected current conditions. She worked closely with private boaters and outfitters to disseminate safety-related information. By receiving accurate information, many boaters who didn't have extreme high water experience opted to cancel because they felt they would be getting in over their heads. Boaters were able to make informed decisions based upon the accurate information about water conditions. Kelly's efforts prevented accidents and injuries from occurring.
"In 2011 - more than ever - the River Office Manager had a direct bearing on the safety of Dinosaur's river uses," state Risser. "Kelly excelled at providing a wealth of information to the boating community about the water level, hazards and what to expect. She fielded many questions about safety and encouraged callers to think carefully about the hazard they would encountered in terms of their own skills and experience. Kelly made the extra effort to contact parties after they got off the river to discuss their experience and observations and used that information to educate future users about the conditions."
In June 1970, Dr. James and Dr. Amy Hecht were vacationing in Yellowstone National Park with their three young children. On the afternoon of June 28th, as they were walking along the boardwalk near Crested Pool in the Old Faithful area, their youngest child, Andy, was engulfed in steam and did not see a right angle turn in the boardwalk. He stepped off the edge of the boardwalk, which had no guardrail, and stumbled into a 200-degree thermal pool scalding him to death before his parents' eyes. Jim and Amy Hecht believed the death of their 9-year old son could have been prevented, and they embarked on a personal campaign for safety in national parks. Through a small family foundation, they have funded the Andrew Clark Hecht Memorial Public Safety Achievement Award, The recipient receives a plaque and a $500 monetary award.
Dinosaur National Monument covers more than 210,000 acres along the border of Colorado and Utah. In addition to the world famous dinosaur fossils, the monument also features two rivers renown for white-water rafting and boating, numerous petroglyph sites and other evidence of human habitation extending back over 7,000 years, an array of plant and animal life, campgrounds, trails and scenic drives. For more information about Dinosaur National Monument, you can call us at (435) 781-7700, find us on facebook or follow DinosaurNPS on twitter.