Students’ project highlights Lake Tapps water safety program

eva.revear@thenewstribune.comNovember 9, 2013 

A memorial for Lake Tapps drowning victims stands at Allan Yorke Park in Bonney Lake. Students at North Tapps Middle School started the project, and they’re trying to find names of more drowning victims to add to it.


Lake Tapps is entering its quiet time of year. The reservoir fed by the White River is being drawn down this month and will reach its lowest point after the holidays.

Meanwhile, the Lake Tapps recreation season is over, as is the first Swimsafe water-safety education campaign.

But a group of eighth-graders at North Tapps Middle School and their teacher are eager to build on what they accomplished during the campaign this year.

“We don’t want to let the mayor and fire department forget about this,” said student Abby Nelson.

She’s working with fellow students Logan DeLapp, Téa Chapman and Alicia Sjoden along with their social studies teacher, Lorrie Nelly.

The students’ biggest goal is finishing a memorial to drowning victims in Bonney Lake’s Allan Yorke Park. The students helped build the memorial last spring.

The brick memorial displays the names of 12 people who have drowned in Lake Tapps over the years, but there are others whose names the students have not yet discovered.

The teens want to develop a plan to raise awareness of the memorial, giving families of other drowning victims a chance to come forward.

The students say another goal is to raise money to illuminate the memorial, making it more visible to people on the lake.

When Lake Tapps refills next spring, the students plan to work with local fire and police authorities as part of a renewed Swimsafe campaign, helping teach elementary-age students about water safety.

Swimsafe combines the efforts of Bonney Lake police, East Pierce Fire & Rescue, Cascade Water Alliance, the City of Bonney Lake, Pierce County, Sumner School District and Dieringer School District. Together they were able to educate thousands of elementary school students about water safety last spring.

For the first time since 2001, Lake Tapps had no drownings.

By contrast, the lake’s glacier-fed waters claimed three lives in summer 2012, including a Bonney Lake High School student, Quentin Boggan.

“The biggest thing to come out of this is seeing the influence the kids have had on the park,” said Bonney Lake Mayor Neil Johnson.

The idea for the memorial started as a contest entry by a North Tapps seventh-grade class participating in Project Citizen, a nationwide competition designed to get young people civically engaged.

The class of 34 came up with a list of 20 ideas and chose water safety because of its importance to their community.

Nelly said the idea of a monument stood out because it would commemorate those who have died in Lake Tapps and serve as a warning to those who swim and boat there.

“We want it to be a cautionary tale,” she said.

The class developed a plan of action, which they presented to the Bonney Lake City Council. The council approved it and helped the students refine their plan.

The students found a mason to build the memorial, researched the names of those who had drowned, and had a booth at a community event raising awareness for the project.

The kids raised more than $300, while the Cascade Water Alliance — the municipal corporation that operates and maintains Lake Tapps as a drinking water source — donated more than $400 to cover the cost of the memorial plaques. Enough money is left over to add to the memorial once more names are discovered.

Bill Murdock, from All Masonry & Construction in Port Orchard, built the brick memorial at no cost to the students.

While they didn’t win the Project Citizen competition, the students say they’re happy with what they accomplished for their community.

The other parties involved in the Swimsafe campaign are also making plans for the future, with hopes to build a streak of safe summers on Lake Tapps.

Dina Sutherland, public education specialist for East Pierce Fire & Rescue, says peer-to-peer water safety programs will be developed for middle and high schools.

The Bonney Lake Police Department recently won an award for its contributions to Swimsafe. The police Marine Service Unit received the Boating Safe Educational Service Award from the Washington State Parks Department after holding 30 water safety assemblies that reached more than 7,000 elementary students in the Fife and Dieringer school districts.


Name, When died

  • Marques Weekly, Aug. 5, 2012
  • Marcus Henderson, July 21, 2012
  • Quentin Boggan, June 21, 2012
  • Robert Harris, Sept. 10, 2011
  • Charley Sing, July 31, 2010
  • Israel Godkin, July 10, 2010
  • Peter Talaga, May 15, 2010
  • Arvin Weherawatthage, Sept. 2, 2008
  • Jenda Jones, Aug. 20, 2005
  • Denise Colbert, Aug. 3, 2003
  • Mike Burruss, June 26, 1980
  • Arnold Burtis, July 1, 1972

Eva Revear: 253-597-8670

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