|TWRA’s Rush keeping Old Hickory Lake safe|
|Friday, July 20, 2012|
You can think of it as your neighborhood.
Most people drive through the streets of their neighborhood and wave at friends, enjoy the landscaping and give kids on bikes lots of room. What if your neighborhood was a lake?
The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) has assigned Andy Rush to patrol the neighborhood of Sumner County, which includes Old Hickory Lake (OHL). TWRA officers are trained at the police academy like all other police officers and can make arrests if needed. Officer Rush can often be found in his boat cruising the OHL neighborhood. TWRA officers ride with partners during most days on the lake.
“One of my jobs is to help people be safe. I would rather not write citations,” he commented when asked about his job during a recent ride-along. “I give many verbal warnings to boaters to give them a chance.” During one of his stops, he checked a boater to whom he had loaned a flotation device a week prior. The boater had returned the device and thanked Officer Rush for the loaner and proudly displayed his new devices.
Officer Rush related that there are three main things for which he checks. “They must have floatation devices for everyone on the boat, they must have their boat registration and they must have a working fire extinguisher.” A fishing boat he viewed had no registration numbers on the boat. The boat had just been vinyl wrapped and the three-inch numbers and state validation decal were not visible. After approaching the boat, Rush’s partner for the day, Brad Bagwell, checked the operator and found he had applied for his registration, but awaiting the state to send him his decal and number. The state attempts to process new registrations with in 30 days of the request.
Later, Rush spotted a bright object in the water. As he got close, Officer Bagwell bent down and retrieved a new life vest from the water. The officers allowed it time to dry and then stowed it in the boat. “We can use that for a loaner,” Rush said.
TWRA officers often cruise around dock “neighborhoods” to see if boats are up to date on registration. “If the boat is in the water, they are subject to all the laws. When we see a boat that does not have a current decal, we will probably see it again somewhere else.” Rush was referring to the possibility of citing the operators for not having proper registration.
Leaving the dock, which is a no wake zone, Rush spotted a boat leaving a wake. Around most populated docks are signs that read, “No Wake Zone.” Boaters are required to run at the slowest speed possible while still making forward progress. There were children under 12 years old in the boat, and all were wearing floatation devices as the law requires. Upon checking, the operator had just purchased the boat and had no current registration. Rush explained the meaning of “no wake” to the operator. Rush asked to see the fire extinguisher. The gauge on the unit read zero, which indicated it was not in working order.
“I am going to give you a verbal warning on the no wake violation and I should give you a citation for the registration.” Officer Rush told the operator. “I am going to give you a citation for the fire extinguisher.” After writing the citation, Rush explained what the boat owner was to do.
“Your court date is on the citation. I am sorry you have to take a work day to go to court. The citation is ten dollars, but the court costs are $191.00. If you go buy a fire extinguisher and take it or the receipt with you to court, the judge might be lenient and help you out. I am not promising that will happen,” Rush explained.
Upon returning to the dock, Rush pulled the boat into the TWRA slip at Creekwood Marina. A boat owner approached Rush and asked if he had a first aid kit. Amy Butler was sitting in a chair on the covered dock. While stepping down a ladder near the stern of one of the boats, she had bumped her foot on the propeller. Rush opened the kit and applied bandages and tape to Butler’s cut.
Officer Rush wears many hats in his neighborhood. He recently helped Chick Crandell and the Hendersonville Parks Department with the annual fishing rodeo at Hendersonville’s Memorial Park. If you see him on the TWRA boat, give him a wave.
All Tennessee boater information can be found at: http://www.tn.gov/twra/boatmain.html
By Phil Stauder