As a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer ranger at Tuttle Creek Lake, Angelia Lentz helps people safely connect with the natural world. In a year when people are spending a lot of time in a digital space, she’s glad to get people outdoors.

Lentz enjoys sharing about the history of the area and educating the public on how to have fun on the water and in the park safely.

“It’s a chance to get unplugged,” she said. “We’re spending so much time behind screens. I feel lucky to be part of making that opportunity possible for people.”

Lentz, 45, grew up in Smith Center and did a lot of boating, camping, hunting and fishing as a child. She moved to Manhattan in 1994 to attend K-State and graduated in 1999 with a degree in park management. She worked with a few agencies in the area and spent around 12 years with Fort Riley’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation program before joining the Corps of Engineers around three years ago.

For Lentz, the job is about protecting the park and its visitors.

“We are stewards for the land, water and wildlife of Tuttle Creek,” she said.

She said one of her favorite parts of the job is going into local schools to do programs related to the park, especially water safety.

Teaching people how to boat and swim safely on the lake is one of the most important parts of a ranger’s mission, she said, and assisting with water rescues is a difficult part of the job.

She also sometimes speaks to people in the park about the importance of steps as simple as wearing a life vest, for example.

“We want to make sure every one can go out and have a good time and also go home,” she said.

Lentz also enjoys sharing the history of the lake with people in the community. She said she has always been interested in history and how an area’s past shapes its present. Lentz credits this to her mother, who was a history teacher.

“I have a natural curiosity in seeing how an area got to where it’s at,” she said.

Tuttle Creek Lake was created when the dam was built around 57 years ago, and some towns were destroyed in the process.

Lentz said she feels it’s important to remember the people who lived in those places and the towns they called home.

“We have the opportunity to talk to people who were around before it was there,” she said. “It’s important to preserve that history as well as we can.”

Last year provided a dramatic time in the lake’s history, when high waters threatened to flood the area. Lentz said rangers were taking frequent readings of water levels and monitoring the parks to ensure visitors would be safe.

“We did end up working some long hours,” she said. “I climbed up and down the dam taking readings more time than I care to remember.”

Park manager Melissa Bean said Lentz is an asset to the park and always is willing to take on a challenge or solve a problem.

“The fact that Angelia can take on a problem and you know she can do it, that allows myself and her co-workers to get the job done to meet the demands of the public,” Bean said.

During normal operations, Lentz said she enjoys helping people learn about the natural environment of the park, from its wildflowers to its reptiles and amphibians, even the bald eagles that pass through on the park’s annual Eagle Day.

“It’s amazing to see the reaction of kids and even some of the adults,” she said.

Fostering an interest in and passion for nature can ensure people will always have somewhere to engage with the natural world.

“If we want people to conserve our natural resources, they have to have some kind of connection,” Lentz said.

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