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Visitor Assistance Program Summary Banner

Program Summary

    In the mid-1970's a series of actions including Congressional Reports, field surveys, and incidents with Park Rangers and visitors showed the Chief's office the wide range of interpretation that the field was giving the citation program (which was only about 5 years old at the time). The 1995 Park Ranger/Visitor Safety Study indicated that inconsistent application of policy continued to be a core issue in analysis of the safety problems.

    The Visitor Assistance for NRM Training Course was developed in the late 1970's to define and clarify the role and responsibilities of Corps Park Rangers and Resource Managers relative to our regulatory enforcement responsibilities and in managing visitation to our projects. The course is now over 25 years old and has continued to evolve and grow with the changes in the Visitor Assistance Program.

    The following chronology of milestones describes the development of the program as we know it today:
    1944 Flood Control Act, Section 4 - Gave the Corps of Engineers authority to construct and operate recreation facilities at reservoir projects
    1962 Flood Control Act, Section 4 - Broadened recreation authority to non-reservoir projects
    1962 Senate Document 97 - Recognized recreation development as equivalent to other project purposes
    1965 Federal Water Projects Recreation Act (PL 89-72) - Required consideration for outdoor recreation opportunities and established cost-sharing requirements
    1970 Flood Control Act, Section 234 - Senator Cooper of Kentucky, based on concerns about litter on a Corps project, initiates legislation establishing a Citation Authority program
    1971 36 Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter III, Part 327 established the first nationwide set of rules and regulations governing public use of Corps of Engineers Water Resources Development Projects
    1971 ER 1130-2-400 - Management of Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation - (Superceded by ER/EP 1130-2-540 in 1996)- established much of our nationwide policy governing the Natural Resource Management/ Recreation Program
    1971 ER 190-2-3- Law Enforcement Policy - Established an interim policy at Lake Cumberland, which included a Pilot Program for enforcement of regulations at Corps of Engineers projects.
    1971 Pilot Citation Program, Lake Cumberland, Kentucky under which six Park Rangers were granted authority to enforce rules by issuance of warnings only, and which also specifically stated that the Park Rangers would not carry weapons nor have arrest authority
    1972 ER 190-2-4 - Law Enforcement- Expanded the program nationwide and included citations as well as warnings
    1974 Review of Visitor Protective Services- Reviewed Corps program, including looking at our limited Park Ranger authority, inability of local authorities to enforce. The study addressed options including increased authority, adding to Park Ranger staffing, assuming complete enforcement responsibility, letting state and local agencies assume those responsibilities, or keeping Corps authorities fundamentally the same and initiating Law Enforcement Contracts. Other recommended changes included improving regulations and guidance, training, and uniforms.
    1975 GAO Study, Crime in the Federal Recreation Areas (Published in 1977)- Noted that crime was an issue in all federal recreation areas and addressed concerns of public safety
    1975 Corps of Engineers Land Use Study- One point of review was "Should we be in the Recreation/Natural Resource Management business at all?" The determination was "Yes," we were singularly qualified to continue this mission at our projects.
    1976 Water Resource Development Act, Section 120 - Authorization to establish Law Enforcement Contracts
    1977 ER 1130-2-418- Law Enforcement Contracts, establishing policy to initiate these contracts with guidance for administration
    1977 An incident occurred in the southeastern US involving a Corps Park Ranger carrying a handgun on duty, outside the scope of his authority. During a hazing ritual for a local club, some young men were "streaking" within a Corps campground and the Park Ranger, in attempting to fire a warning shot, accidentally shot and killed a 15-year-old boy. The Corps was considered at least partially liable, since the Park Ranger's supervisor was apparently aware he was armed.
    1977 Two Park Rangers in Arkansas were ambushed and abducted by a pair of escapees from the Oklahoma State Prison. One Park Ranger was shot and critically injured, but survived. A local City Marshal also was shot and killed. The second Park Ranger was forced to help the escapees flee and then was executed two days later.
    1979 ER 1130-2-420-Visitor Assistance - Program policy and guidance established and Corps-sponsored VA training initiated
    1983 Sections 111 and 1114, Title 18 - Park Managers and Park Rangers included among federal officers protected against assault
    1986 Uniforms for Natural Resources Management Program and Staff
    1990 Corps Recreation Study - A study was initiated to consider increasing privatization and altering the way the Corps works with its partners in recreation leases. Also included were recommendations for a national camping reservation system.
    1995 Visitor/Ranger Safety Study- Included a nationwide survey, a national ranger/manager summit, a task force to summarize and consolidate results, and audits to track results
    1996 Task Force Report on the Visitor/Park Ranger Safety Study- Included 54 recommendations, 59% of which were within existing authorities. There were six task forces established for further study on specific issues (vehicle colors and markings, bulletproof vests, title 36, chemical-aerosol spray, incident reporting, and training)
    1996 ER/EP 1130-2-550-Recreation Operations and Maintenance Guidance and Procedures (Chapter 6, Visitor Assistance Program)
    1997 The Verbal Judo training is incorporated into the PROSPECT Visitor Assistance training program to teach Park Rangers tactical communications.
    1999 EC 1130-2-212 - Visitor Assistance Vehicles, updating guidance as to vehicle equipment and markings
    1999 EC 1130-2-213 - Visitor Assistance Training, updating and clarifying guidance on training requirements of NRM personnel, featuring a tri-modular approach to training of Park Rangers and Resource Managers
    2000 Safe Self Exportable Training makes available to field personnel a CD-ROM based interactive training program to supplement visitor assistance training in situational analysis and tactical communication
    2001 The Pepper Spray Pilot Program is expanded to include all the projects in SWD
    2002 The Pepper Spray Program is authorized to be implemented nationwide, EC 1130-2-214 - Project Operations - Oleoresin Capsicum (Pepper Spray) Program , 22 April 2002
    2003 The “Draft” ER/EP 1130-2-550, Chapter 6, Visitor Assistance regulation is submitted to the field for comments on the revisions.
    2003 The Visitor Assistance – Basic training course is restructured to allow additional personal protection training.
    2004 The Corps implements the “2012” program and organizational changes to include Communities of Practice (CoP), Regional Integration Teams (RIT) and District Support Team (DST).
    2004 The Pepper Spray training was incorporated into the Visitor Assistance Basic training course.
    2006 The CorpsWatch Property Protection Program authorized for nationwide implementation.
    2006 The Visitor Assistance – Basic and Management/Policy Courses are restructured to include briefings from HQ Security concerning activities at Corps projects.
    2007 The Safe Self exportable training CD program is updated with new scenarios and features.
    2008 Department of Interior (DOI) changed their regulation to allow individuals to carry a concealed, loaded and operable weapon in most National Parks and Wildlife Refuges. Corps regulations not affected by the DOI.
    2009 Agreement developed with Personal Protection Consultants, Inc. to allow Corps NRM personnel to be certified as OC/Pepper Spray Instructor Trainers.
    2010 A comprehensive on-line Corps Park Ranger/Visitor Safety Survey was sponsored by the Park Ranger CoP Advisory Board and conducted by Michigan State University who also wrote the report of results. The survey was distributed to all Corps park rangers and managers having Visitor Assistance responsibilities.
    2011 The Corps Visitor Assistance Program Management Survey, also administered by MSU, gathered feedback about the Corps Visitor Assistance (VA) program from the experience and perspective of those who manage others who perform VA and/or otherwise have a role in administering the VA program (e.g., MSC-level NRM POCs; district-level Chiefs of Operations; Chiefs of Natural Resources Management, and their District Visitor Assistance Program POCs; Operations Project Managers [if they have NRM responsibilities], and lake/lock-level NRM Managers).
    2011 The Park Ranger CoP Advisory Board assembled an Ad Hoc Team to review the MSU report of Visitor Assistance surveys results (authored by Dr. Charles Nelson of MSU), and to develop a response to the reports recommendations for CECW-CO-N consideration.
    2012 While issuing a citation for an alcohol violation, a Lake Sidney Lanier Park Ranger was attacked by an individual. The Park Ranger deployed pepper spray. The attacker was arrested and charged and pled guilty to assaulting the Park Ranger. Due to this incident, the State of Georgia changed state law to include Corps of Engineers Park Rangers in case of attack.
    2012 Introduced mesh training in the NRM Visitor Assistance Course #147, where students learn to use those personal protection techniques while engaging with aggressor in an attack situation.
    2013 Expanded the NRM Visitor Assistance Course #147 to a full 40 hours to cover additional personal protection training techniques.
    2013 While closing one of the parks at Lake Sidney Lanier, Park Ranger was accidently shot by individual who was in the act of committing suicide. Park Ranger recovered from his injuries.

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