News: Carmen named District Employee of the Month for December 2013
Story by Fred Tucker
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Sondra Carmen, a park ranger and environmental protection specialist at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s Dale Hollow Lake in Celina, Tenn., is the District Employee of the Month for December 2013.
Serving as project lead for the routine oversight of the Recreation Program at Dale Hollow Lake, Carmen has been instrumental in Dale Hollow having one of the largest recreation programs in the district and having the largest Primitive Camping Program with 31 sites, according to Stephen Beason, project manager at Dale Hollow Lake.
“Sondra has been instrumental in converting the Dale Hollow Primitive Camping Program from the local office call-in reservation system to the Corps' National Recreation Reservation Service,” Beason said. “This new online reservation system will provide a much greater level of convenience and service to the user, allowing more flexibility in making reservations up to six months in advance.”
The award recognizes Carmen’s efforts to meet the needs of the people who recreate at the lake and utilize Corps recreational opportunities.
“Learning and utilizing ever-improving informational technology to optimize our service to our thousands of visitors while operating a very active recreation program with a limited staff is challenging,” Carmen said.
By taking reservations through the NRRS, the Corps can do a better job tracking and accounting for recreation use fees collected and see a more comprehensive usage of these dispersed campsites, according to Beason.
Located on the Tennessee-Kentucky border near Celina, Tenn., Dale Hollow Lake recreation facilities provide opportunities for millions of annual visitors to fish, hunt, camp, picnic, boat, canoe, hike, scuba dive, ride horses, and enjoy the great outdoors.
Four developed camping areas offer a total of 406 camp sites with facilities, and 31 primitive camping locations have more than 70 designated primitive campsites dispersed over 620 miles of shoreline in the two states. These are “pack it in-pack it out” sites, according to Carmen.
“Knowing that approximately 70 percent of our customer base make advance camping reservations online, I try to think about the questions primitive site campers might have about their preferred campsite and I use the NRRS system, our website and Facebook to pre-answer their questions,” she explained.
Beason said Carmen is a subject matter expert on Corps recreation programs, having worked in Corps recreation for about 25 years and been involved in the planning and implementation of NRRS from its beginning.
“Sondra is customer focused, and her work ethic, attention to detail and pre-planning abilities have been instrumental in making Dale Hollow recreational programs successful examples for others to emulate,” Beason said. “She is a great asset,” he added.
Carmen also noted that she very much enjoys her job because it is very satisfying.
“I enjoy working with fellow Corps employees and interacting with all our customers - campers, contractors, etc., - and seeing them enjoy the facilities and lake. Knowing that I had a behind-the-scenes input in their positive recreational experience is very rewarding. I also greatly appreciate working in such a beautiful location and enjoy being out in the natural environment as part of my duties.”
Carmen is also a certified fitness instructor and currently teaches group fitness classes at the Putnam County, Tenn., YMCA.
“My membership there also opened the doors for me to reach out to second graders as part of the YMCA Learn to Swim Program in which I present our Corps water safety program to the majority of Putnam County’s second-graders,” She said.
“Sondra's attention to our customers and focus on customer service reflect positively on her, the Dale Hollow resource team and the Nashville District,” said Lt. Col. John L. Hudson, Nashville District commander.
Sondra holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation and Parks Administration from Eastern Kentucky University, is married, and has been a USACE employee for more than 25 years.
Go to: http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Locations/Lakes/DaleHollowLake/Recreation.aspx for more information on Dale Hollow Lake Recreation.