John Merson spent nearly four decades patrolling Colorado lakes as a park ranger, saving lives, teaching boating safety to fellow rangers and park visitors alike and, most important, making the waters safe for boaters, anglers and all visitors.
Even after he retired from Colorado Parks and Wildlife in 2010, Merson kept up the watch, returning each summer to Lake Pueblo State Park to work as a seasonal boat ranger.
His dedication and commitment to educating boaters, enforcing water safety laws and rescuing people in need were all cited when CPW recently honored Merson as the Boating Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for 2017.
Merson, known by his playful nickname "Mad Dog," has demonstrated "ongoing initiative, leadership and dedication," to CPW and park visitors, said Joe Stadterman, senior ranger at Lake Pueblo, in his nomination.
"He has created a culture of safety at Lake Pueblo as he actively strives to ensure safety of all the visitors on the lake," Stadterman wrote in his nomination. "There is not a single person in the South Shore Marina who does not recognize Mad Dog.
"It is not uncommon to go to the marina and see John interacting with young children, teaching them about the importance of wearing a life jacket. He has inspired and educated multiple generations of boaters to not only have fun, but to also be safe."
Those sentiments were echoed by Grant Brown, CPW state Boating Safety Program manager, when he announced Merson's award July 19.
"John has made outstanding contributions to boating safety in Colorado," Brown said, noting his service both at Lake Pueblo and at John Martin Reservoir State Park.
Park Manager Monique Mullis also praised Merson for being an inspiration to staff and ranger trainees.
"John has contributed so much to Lake Pueblo, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the boating public we serve," Mullis said. "I'm thrilled the agency agreed and is honoring him with this award."