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Walker receives U.S. Corp of Engineers Chief of Engineers Award

(August 22, 2019) The Lake Ouachita and Ouachita Project Management Office would like to announce that Derick S. Walker received the 2019 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief of Engineers Award for Natural Resource Management Employee of the Year.  Currently Mr. Walker supervises four GS-11 NRM Rangers, four GS-9 NRM Rangers, five GS-7 Park Rangers, three Pathways Rangers and six Temporary Park Rangers.  His guidance and leadership ensured the protection of the 68,000 acre project. The size and scope of the project requires a leader that fully understands the meaning and intent of the Title 36, policies and procedures and regulations. 

He continually coordinates and communicates changes and opportunities to all nine major resorts/marinas and the three public lease areas.  He ensures the Lake Ouachita Facebook Page is updated with pertinent information and that all public email questions are answered in a timely manner.  Quick public updates are import each spring with high-water events closing campsites, roads and boat ramps. 

Walker comes to work daily determined to Keep Lake Ouachita Great. He does this by challenging his staff and himself to accomplish more and find better ways of doing business. He believes in “working smarter, not harder.” As the Supervisor Natural Resource Specialist he makes an effort to make site visits on special projects. Early on during the island marker replacement project he spent several days assisting the NRM staff with site preparation work. This does not mean he watched, but rather used a rock bar and jackhammer to “move dirt.” 

His continued support of the water safety program has paid off dearly in the last few years. With a visitation of 3.5M-4.0M, to include wilderness and island camping, Lake Ouachita’s last drowning was in 2015. He ensures that boat patrols, banners, and beach rescue bag programs are a staple during the busy recreation season. He assigns staff to outreach programming and encourages them to seek better ways to reach the public. 

By Walker being an effective and efficient leader it has allowed other leaders, to include the Resource Manager to deploy in support of Emergency Operations.  During the yearlong deployment of the Facility Manager, Mr. Walker took the lead in several campground upgrades, provides supervisory guidance to the Acting Facility Manager’s, coordinated with contractors, as well as encourage staff to volunteer for a developmental assignments at the project and at the district. 

Walker’s leadership and supervisory skills are exceptional and Lake Ouachita could not have accomplished all the many tasks without his guidance.  Furthermore his encouragement of other staff members has led to many other team members serving on national teams and division teams, to include CISM, PAC, MVD Water Safety PDT, MVK Water Safety PDT and Flood Fight Strike team.   Walker is an exceptional employee and supervisor and proudly represents the Lake Ouachita Team and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

During the absence of the Resource Manager he serves as Acting Resource Manager. He was nominated not for one specific project, but the managing of a diverse and robust NRM staff (full-time, temp and pathways rangers) while assisting Acting Facility Manger, other sister- projects and serving on National Teams. 

U.S. Congressman Bruce Westerman presented Derick Walker with a letter of achievement. Walker was presented with the 2019 USACE Chief of Engineers Award for Natural Resource Management Employee of the Year. Pictured left to right: Linda Thompson, Derick Walker, U.S. Congressman Bruce Westerman, Terry Thompson. – Submitted Photo

During the off-season he led of team of Rangers on the largest sign replacement project in Lake Ouachita history. He was responsible for putting together a SOW for the purchase of all 50 island markers. He was responsible in coordinating all personnel so missing island markers locations could be determined, tree and brush removal could be conducted, herbicide treatments made and new t-post could be set prior the arrival of the new island markers.  Many of the island markers were on high-bluffs and setting on bedrock. This required the use of a dibble bar, two man auger, power rock hammer, 260 pounds of concrete per sign and a lot of will-power. Maintaining a motivated crew over the long months was a challenge, but he was able to get this backlog maintenance issue addressed quickly and efficiently. It is believed the original signs being replaced were first installed 50 years ago.  One way of doing this was mixing the island marker work with placing fish shelters from the trees and brush that was being removed. He also reached out to the local colleges for volunteers. This provided the NRM crew with extra help and simultaneously helped students meet the class requirements. 

Through specific manpower scheduling he was able to have his staff repaint No Hunting boundaries and hang U.S Government Property Signs. He along with his staff developed a scope of work for 125K worth of boundary survey work that started at the Lake Ouachita State Park and ended near Brady Mountain Recreation Area. The leg work for preparing the SOW was extensive due to several land-exchanges with the Forest Service.  Mr. Walker and the GIS Ranger conducted QA work on all completed boundary lines, monuments and provided input for closeout. 

He coordinated with local high school bass fishing clubs to assist with fisheries enhancement on Lake Ouachita. Volunteers worked with NRM staff to find strategic locations to sinks brush and provided manpower for moving material.  The volunteers provided extra USACE manpower and simultaneously allowed the teams to meet their required volunteer hours. Coordinates were collected and shared on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission GIS fisheries webpage. 

During campsite renovations at Stephens Park and Brady Mountain Recreation Area, Walker provided overall project direction and execution of the campground rehabilitations.  He informed and instructed USACE and RBS contractor staffs on work priorities to ensure milestones would be met weekly.  This included detailed campsite design and layout based on terrain features, marking of timber to be harvested that was buckling asphalt roadways and old campsites, re-design of boat ramp overflow parking, selection of campsite pad rock size and color, identifying exact locations of campsite fire rings, pedestal grills and picnic tables, planting of 40 six to eight foot trees, the installation of new culverts and rip rap drainage channels, and identifying sections of the roadways for cold mix patching. He has been instrumental in the initial phase design of Joplin Recreation Area.  This includes plans to relocate many of the poorly designed sites and coordinated campground closure to least impacted user groups.  With the Facility Manager being deployed overseas; it was important to have someone with the knowledge, skills and abilities to organize, oversee and carryout such a large backlog maintenance project. 

Walker served on the Recreation Leadership Advisory Team (RLAT), provided oversight and recommendations on strategic planning and national priorities of the Corps Recreation Program.  Provided meeting input on various national level priorities to include:  R1S, Operational Condition Assessment (OCA), WCC, budget justifications, O&M 20/20, boundary line /encroachment audits, and NRM Gateway from a field perspective.  He assisted with development of EC 1130-2-550, CHP 9- Rec Use Fees.  He directly reported to MVD NRM Manager Lynn Neher, USACE HQ REC BLM Scott Strotman, and USACE HQ Chief of NRM Jeff Krause.   He currently serves on the VERS CATT. He serves as the MVK lead in reviewing and correcting anomalies in raw data visitation for all 266 PSA’s in the district.

His team was responsible conducting the annual mobility deer hunt which provides hunting opportunities for five hunters and their families annually. Their work in preparing for the hunt ensures the overall success. The hunt is supported by Friends of Lake Ouachita and other local business. Each January, Walker coordinates with the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, AR State Parks, Arkansas Game and Fish, dog handlers and numerous volunteers to conduct the Annual Wounded Warrior Squirrel Hunt or better known as Squirrel-A-Palooza.  This hunt provides opportunities for 20 wounded warriors and their family members. Total attendees is the past has exceeded 50 people. This requires coordination of cabins, food, dog/handlers, transportation and boats for family tours. This event is supported by multiple counties, agencies and volunteers.

He also serves as the MVK District Motorboat Coordinator who is responsible for implementation of the small boat operator program in accordance with current regulations. He organized Visitor Assistance Refresher training for 39 Rangers across three projects; Lake Ouachita, DeGray Lake, and Lake Greeson. The class covered the following topics: OCAT, CPR/1st AID/AED, Verbal Defense, Ranger Image, Demographics, Title 36, NRM Update, and Enforcement.  Following the session he assigned lead instructors on each section to “build the bench” and allow others to gain experience in teaching.  He also organized a cross-training session for an employee to work at Greers Ferry Lake in Heber Springs, AR (Little Rock District).  The 2-week session provided this Ranger with a broader perspective of USACE operations not only from another USACE District, but a different USACE Division as well.

He was responsible for streamlining the fee collection process for rangers collecting funds and ensuring that his staff was working within the guidance provided in EC 1130-2-550, CHP 9- Recreation Use Fee.  During this time he audited the iron vaults and determined that there was a need for high security locks and locking panels which he ordered and had his staff install. 

During Spring Break, Walker had the evening NRM staff conduct a 100% inventory on all security lighting on the project as well as all and comfort station lighting so work orders could be processed and priority list could be developed to move from currently lighting to LED lighting which will reduce utility bills, reduce overall O&M maintenance and increase safety for the visiting public. 

Walker’s willingness to lead, guide and direct his staff are the reasons that many of the backlog maintenance items listed above are being addressed.  He understands that a supervisor must understand the vision of the district, the project office, the manager as well as the team he is leading in order to be fully successful.  Empowering the Ranger staff to make certain decisions without supervisor input and to take ownership for projects allows employees to feel a greater sense of accomplishment.  Most importantly, he has served as a mentor inspiring others and teaching them that hard work and teamwork provide the greatest and most rewarding results.

Article courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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