Ranger Jake Vitak at the gift shop at Hammocks Beach State Park

Ranger Jake Vitak Recognized by DPR Interpretation and Education Council

Ranger Jake Vitak at Hammocks Beach State Park was recognized by the Division for his exemplary efforts in providing a kayak safety course as part of a partnership with the American Canoe Association and several other agencies.

Top photo courtesy of the Friends of Hammocks Beach and Bear Island: Ranger Jake Vitak at the gift shop at Hammocks Beach State Park

On August 27, 2023, the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation's Interpretation and Education Council gave Ranger Jake Vitak at Hammocks Beach State Park a commendation for his leadership, innovation, and exemplary efforts in providing and promoting a quality interpretation and education program to the public. Vitak was instrumental in planning and implementing a "Kayaking 101" program that involved 11 locations, more than 50 volunteers, dozens of organizations, and 130 participants in May 2023.

The program offered low-cost kayak instruction for North Carolinians from instructors who were certified to provide paddling and rescue training. Participants learned skills and techniques such as properly tying down and transporting kayaks, launching and recovering kayaks from the water, and rescuing themselves after capsizing. They were also taught hazards to navigation on the water, as well as other safety tips.

The class was offered as the result of a partnership between the division, the North Carolina chapter of the American Canoe Association, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. The program kicked off National Safe Boating Week, a campaign by the National Safe Boating Council. As noted by the I&E Council, it was likely the single largest education day for kayak safety in North Carolina State Parks' history.

Participants in the Kayaking 101 program at Hammocks Beach State Park in May 2023
Kayaking 101 program at Hammocks Beach State Park, which was led by Ranger Vitak, in addition to planning and coordinating programs at nine other state parks and one NCWRC access. Photo courtesy of the American Canoe Association. 

Vitak recognized the opportunity after the ACA offered a similar program in Tennessee in 2022. He spent almost a year spearheading the planning, logistics, and promotion of the event. He collaborated with his counterparts at the ACA and the USCGA to identify which locations would offer the class and to seek volunteers among his state parks colleagues and from other North Carolina agencies. The group also sought donations from sponsors to cover equipment and financial costs, resulting in more than a dozen sponsors for the courses. In addition, Vitak led the full-day program offered at Hammocks Beach State Park.

"The enthusiasm of volunteer instructors and class participants has, without a doubt, advanced kayaking appreciation, bolstered education and interpretation in aquatic environments, and most importantly, may save lives," said Ranger Lindsey Baker, president of the I&E Council.

For more information on the kayaking classes, see the recap on the ACA website:

ACA website

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