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Rifle Gap State Park Ranger Matt Schuler earns Boating Law Enforcement Officer of the Year
RIFLE, Colo. - Because of a strong passion for public safety and his dedication to ensuring the next generation of park rangers have the best training and the benefit of his knowledge and mentorship, Colorado Parks and Wildlife bestowed the prestigious Boating Law Enforcement Manager of the Year to Senior Park Ranger Matt Schuler of Rifle Gap State Park. CPW's Boating Safety Coordinator Grant Brown presented the award to Schuler during a CPW Commission meeting in Steamboat Springs, Sept. 7.

According to Rifle Gap Park Manager Brian Palcer, Schuler has a reputation for having extensive boating knowledge and experience, having worked at five Colorado State Parks featuring boating activity during his 10-year career.

"I nominated Matt for this award because he deserves the recognition for his knowledge and diligence in the performance of his duties," said Palcer. "One of the most serious public safety issues in Colorado and across the country involves unsafe boating, including boating under the influence. Matt not only enforces our laws, he educates and informs the public and he trains his fellow park rangers as well, a very important part of what he does for the citizens of Colorado. Because he goes well above and beyond, I can honestly say our state's waters are safer today because Matt is on the job."

"I can't thank Brian enough for the nomination, and I am very proud to have earned the award," said Schuler. "CPW has some of most professional law enforcement personnel anywhere and our park visitors are great people. I love my job and really enjoy helping and interacting with others. If that helps make boating at our state parks safer, then I feel I have accomplished much in my career."

In addition to his regular park duties, Schuler teaches Basic Marine Officer Training to newly hired full-time Park Rangers and law enforcement officers from other agencies. In addition, he teaches the same course to temporary staff from the Rifle Gap Complex as well as temporary staff from other state parks.

"One of the things I enjoy most is passing on my experience to new officers," said Schuler. "With more people moving to Colorado every day and more and more boaters heading to the water, it is very important that we have knowledgeable staff to answer questions and make sure everyone is safe."

Among Schuler's other accomplishments during his four-year tenure at Rifle Gap, he increased boat patrol hours during summer when visitation and boating activities are at their peak, despite a limited budget. Schuler is also a Level 1 boat accident investigator and has extensive knowledge of seated Standard Field Sobriety Testing, allowing him to detect inebriation in a person seated in a vehicle or boat.

"Rifle Gap is a relatively small reservoir with a lot of power boats on the water during the summer months," said Palcer. But, because of Matt's proactive efforts, we see very few boat accidents or citations for boating under the influence."

In addition, under Schuler's direction, Rifle Gap State Park participated in Operation Dry Water this summer, spending 16 hours on the water despite limited staffing. The national effort features increased patrols to raise awareness about the dangers of boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Over that weekend, Schuler and park staff contacted 129 boaters, wrote 5 citations and issued 24 warnings.

Schuler also coordinates and instructs monthly boating safety classes at Rifle Gap, designed to help educate novice boaters. He attends local safety fairs where he stresses the importance of having proper equipment, focusing on the criticial need to wear life jackets while on a boat. Earlier this year, Schuler traveled to the Front Range, bringing his boating safety message to attendees of the Denver Boat Show.

"I take my duties to protect the public very seriously," said Schuler. "I didn't even think about recognition and awards, but I am very proud that I was nominated and that my agency felt I deserved the award. None of us could do what we do without the help of many people within this agency. I sincerely thank Brian and the many others I work with on a daily basis. They deserve all the credit for this."

For more information about boating in Colorado, visit CPW's website.