WEST KELOWNA - Lifeguards could soon be watching over swimmers at the CNR wharf in Gellatly Bay.
West Kelowna staff have outlined in an information report possible options and the cost of hiring lifeguards to watch over the popular swimming spot during the busy summer months.
The wharf was reconstructed in 2014, adding in jumping platforms, a zipline and a floating dock, all inside a swim bay protected by a swim line and marker buoys.
Public use has increased since then, as have calls for lifeguards, although the majority of outdoor swimming areas throughout the province do not have them, including most on Okanagan Lake.
The exception is Peachland where the Swim Bay water park is covered by municipally-employed lifeguards from the end of June to the end of August, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The report notes that there is no provincial regulation or legislation requiring lifeguards, nor does the Municipal Insurance Association of B.C. require West Kelowna to guard its waterfront beaches.
If council opts for lifeguards, they would help enforce the no-diving rules, help with security and encourage a family-oriented atmosphere.
According to an audit by the Lifesaving Society of B.C., a minimum of three guards would be required during the park’s service hours.
This would provide guards with backup during peak hours and allow them to cover each other during required breaks.
The report estimates the cost to the city of $55,000 to $90,000 per year, including insurance and training costs for a 12-week coverage period. A further $26,000 would be needed for infrastructure, including guarding chairs, paddle boards, life jackets, first aid kits and a shelter for the equipment.
If lifeguards are brought in at the recommended service level, it would affect taxation by 0.14 to 0.27 per cent or $2.41 to $4.64 per household.
After hearing the report, West Kelowna councillors voted to include the cost of implementing a lifeguard program in the 2016 budget and to immediately implement an appropriate emergency response plan for the wharf.
To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at email@example.com or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-2724.