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Little Rock District inducts newest Distinguished Civilian Employee

Deputy District Engineer Dr. Randy Hathaway and Col. Robert Dixon, commander, Little Rock District USACE present inductee Dale Leggett a plaque for being nominated into the 2017 Distinguished Civilian Employee for Little Rock District USACE.

He probably never thought living his life by the golden rule would gain recognition or going to work would change a district.

Then again he was only doing his best, which is why he was recognized Nov. 29 as the 2017 Distinguished Civilian Employee for Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“I went to work doing the best I could do and would always look back on the biblical saying of do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” Morris Dale Leggett retired chief of natural resources management section said.

As a result Leggett’s actions were being noticed.

“I don’t think we’ve had anyone like him ever or since,” Deputy District Engineer Dr. Randy Hathaway said. “Dale was the best person in reaching out to other Corps employees. If you were sick or struggling he was always the first one lending a helping hand.”

Avid outdoorsman Dale Leggett was recognized Nov. 29 as the 2017 Distinguished Civilian Employee for Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

 

Leggett made the perfect gallery candidate.

“We generally pick out one person who stands out and models those type of qualities and behaviors and he fits the Corps values of putting people first,” explained Hathaway.

Reiterating Hathaway Corps retiree Jack Johnson said Leggett was patient, understanding and caring when they worked together.

During his retirement ceremony in 2013, Morris Dale Leggett retired chief of natural resources management section is congratulated by Dr. Randy Hathaway deputy district engineer.

“You will need a lot of patience if you worked with me,” Johnson joked. “There were times I probably didn’t deserve it but he was nurturing and had more patience than anyone I know.”

Coincidently Leggett shared a similar experience when he first started out.

“Early in my career I never understood things well,” Leggett shared. “My former supervisors were all patient and understanding with me, making me realize that’s what most of us need.”

Hydraulics and technical services branch chief Michael Biggs started with the Corps in the 80’s and Leggett also shaped his career with his patience and understanding. In fact Biggs credits Leggett for some of his career skills.

“You really helped me communicate with others and taught me things that helped when I became a project manager,” Biggs concluded. “I learned to communicate effectively and understand the things you taught. You made me a better engineer.”

Equally amazing to the people he inspired were his contributions to the district.

“His name became synonymous as an advocate for natural resources and recreation programs within the district and around the Corps,” Titus Hardiman chief of natural resources management section said.

Leggett’s positive outlook was the key to his success.

“I always tried to seek more opportunities and never looked at it as a task,” Leggett said. “I walked in the office and each day it was a chance to excel.”

Being an avid outdoorsman gave him a firsthand glimpse the need to balance the demand for recreational opportunities and the districts requirement to ensure recreation and natural resources were protected.

Dale Leggett was recognized Nov. 29 as the 2017 Distinguished Civilian Employee for Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“He was instrumental in employing a park efficiency ranking system known as the Park Operating Efficiency Review, which assisted recreation managers in making the best decision for changes in park operations,” outdoor recreation planner Christine Smith said.

Basically this meant if funding was available the parks would be getting improvements made.

Smith said POER was instrumental in communicating recreational needs to congressional delegates resulting in additional funding of more than $13 million for improvements at the projects.

Spearheaded under Leggett’s leadership the POER resulted in the district’s total annual visitation and recreational fee collections ranking in the top five of Corps districts nationally.

“Leggett was the forerunner in assuring district recreational opportunities with periodic park evaluations and modernizations,” Smith said. “He was a leader in assuring the future quality of recreational opportunities in Little Rock District with periodic park evaluations and modernization.”

Outdoor Recreation Planner Christine Smith contributed to the nomination of Dale Leggett chief natural resources management section to be inducted into the Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees.

There is no doubt Leggett’s commitment and expertise left a lasting impression on the district and that lasting impression is recognized with his induction into the Little Rock District’s Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees.

“Throughout his 32 years of federal service he demonstrated the highest level of professionalism and loyalty and was recognized as a cornerstone to those within the park ranger and natural resources specialist profession,” Hardiman concluded.

Burn Ban dampens camping this season

More than half the counties in Arkansas are currently under a burn ban because of dry weather conditions, with the number increasing weekly.

As of Nov. 28 the counties in red are in a burn ban.

Although county judges approved the ban, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers recreation sites follow and enforce the ban.

“Burn bans are determined and put in place by the local county judge based off the information he receives from local subject matter experts,” said Scotty Ashlock, natural resource specialist at Lake Dardanelle, Little Rock District USACE. “Our role is to follow and enforces the ban. We don’t add or take away from any of the guidance put out by the forestry commission.”

One of the challenges during the burn ban is that open flames are prohibited. Since fires are a cornerstone of camping and something many families enjoy, rangers thought the ban would disappoint guests.

“Most visitors like to build campfires and sit around with their families, roast hot dogs, s’mores, and tell stories,” Gary Ivy, chief park ranger at Greers Ferry, Little Rock District USACE explained. “Some people may not want to camp if they can’t have a campfire.”

Like Greers Ferry, Ashlock explained how the ban impacts Dardanelle visitors.

“With cool nights, most folks want to build a campfire in the evenings and sit outside,” Ashlock said. “Unfortunately, during the ban they aren’t allowed.”

Interestingly enough, the ban hasn’t lowered the number of people visiting recreations sites. “We haven’t seen a decline at our campgrounds,” Ivy added. “We’ve actually seen an increase in campers this year.”

The same has happened at Dardanelle.

“Burn bans haven’t slowed down visitation,” Ashlock added. “We receive a few complaints about not being able to have a small fire, but most people are very understanding and compliant.”

While it may seem the ban only inconveniences guests, the park rangers have challenges too.

“The main challenge for park rangers is the time and effort it takes to stop and educate park visitors about the burn ban,” Ashlock said. “One of the main issues for visitors is cooking without campfires.”

Luckily guests can cook other ways.

”Gas grills are allowed,” Ashlock said. “We allow cooking with charcoal as long as it is fully contained in an elevated grill, fully extinguished and properly disposed of after use.”

In addition to educating guests park rangers have an even bigger issue on their hands.

“The ban keeps us from doing prescribed burns to enhance timber stands, wildlife habitat, and reduce fuel loading within our parks and timber stands,” Ivy said.

Personnel from Little Rock District conducted a prescribed burn. Currently prescribed burns aren’t allowed in more than half of Arkansas, which keeps park rangers from enhancing timbers stands. (courtesy photo)

Still, the good outweighs the bad.

“There are many positive aspects of a burn ban,” Ashlock said. “Burn bans protect against property damage and most importantly, injury or loss of life.”

In fact since conditions are so dry, one small spark could cause a forest fire.

“With the ban it keeps honest people from building fires that could result in a forest fire,” Ivy said.

Of course under the current conditions, throwing a cigarette on the ground could lead to a fire being started but Ivy explained how people can still smoke.

“Burn bans do not prohibit visitors from smoking but it’s already a violation to dispose of cigarettes on the ground,” Ivy said. “It’s already littering.”

So far burn ban violations haven’t been a problem.

“We haven’t had any issues in our campgrounds with small fires,” Ivy noted. “If an issue arose we would visit ask campers to put the fire out.”

Park rangers take multiple measures to inform guests of the ban it’s still a joint effort between USACE and city officials for enforcement.

“Once a county is placed in a burn ban, we post burn ban signs at the entrance of each park within that county,” Ashlock said. “If a visitor is in violation they can be cited by a park ranger for violation of posted restrictions. Also county and city police regularly patrol all of our parks and officers will issue citations to visitors who violate the burn ban.”

In the event guests are completely unaware of the ban park rangers will usually just give a warning.

“Typically we will warn the campers about having a fire and ask them to put it out,” Ivy said. “If we have to go back to visit with them a second time we will then issue a citation.”

Luckily if a wildfire started the emergency personnel are minutes away.

“If a fire were to escape we would contact the local fire department,” Ashlock said. “All of our parks are within close response time to either a city fire department or rural fire department.

For right now the ban won’t be lifted until conditions improve.

“Until our area receives a substantial amount of rainfall we will remain in a burn ban,” Ivy said.

Park rangers will continue to monitor websites and working with local officials.

We continue to monitor the status of burn bans by viewing the Arkansas Forestry Commission’s website and by staying in contact with local emergency management or sheriff’s office, Ashlock concluded.

For a daily county update on where burn bans are in effect go to

http://www.arkfireinfo.org/