The benefits of a life-jacket are available only to those who wear them, says the Lifesaving Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories.
With that message in mind, three provincial conservation officers working in the Red Deer district have developed a pilot project aimed at ensuring that educational material and life-jackets of the appropriate sizes are available to everyone who goes out on the water.
“We have everything from infant to double-X and triple-X,” said Logan Van Imschoot, who works at Gull Lake and Sylvan Lake.
Kids Don’t Float involves placing self-serve kiosks at launch areas where moms, dads and their little ones can borrow life preservers if they don’t have appropriate gear of their own, said Van Imschoot.
The idea was first brought up by fellow conservation officer Grant Santo, who learned of a similar program during an international conference. Santo, Van Imschoot and Peter Giamberardino worked with the Lifesaving Society to set up a pilot project at two Alberta lakes last summer.
The first kiosks were set up at Pigeon Lake and at the Carson-Pegasus Provincial Park near Whitecourt, and monitored by conservation officers, campground staff and campground volunteers.
The program has been expanded to five more lakes this year, including Crimson Lake northwest of Rocky Mountain House, with hope that kiosks can be set up at Sylvan Lake’s Jarvis Bay and Aspen Beach.
Other provincial parks where kiosks were placed this year include Ghost Reservoir near Cochrane, Young’s Point near Valleyview, Touchwood Lake near Lac La Biche and Gregoire Lake near Fort McMurray.
Van Imschoot said he hopes to set up a kiosk next year at the Brewer’s boat launch at Aspen Beach on Gull Lake as well as a number of other locations, but whether it goes ahead will depend on what resources are available.
“It’s a matter of not biting off more than we can chew in terms of getting the projects successfully off the ground and working with the funding and the grants that we have at the time. We don’t have enough funding to put a kiosk in every provincial park,” he said.
In a statement issued when the pilot was first launched, provincial officials said the parks selected for the pilot project have above-average levels of water-based recreational activity, while the conservation officers working at them are also instructors in the Lifesaving Society’s Water Smart education and lifesaving training programs.
So far, the system is producing the desired results, said Van Imschoot.
“Ultimately, it meets our Alberta Parks mandate of public safety and increasing recreational opportunity and it meets Lifesaving Society mandates of water safety and public safety education as well.”