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Lagoon improvements, but no safety audit recommendations, coming to Harrison

The lagoon will see electrical upgrades, a new flag pole and fencing, but no life jackets or signs
Harrison will be bringing some improvements to the lagoon, including electricity upgrades, a new flag pole and updated fencing around Rendall Park. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)

Harrison Hot Springs lagoon will be getting some electrical upgrades, a new flag pole and a new entrance to Rendall Park, thanks to leftover money from the last three years.

Every three years, Harrison receives Resort Municipality Infrastructure (RMI) funds from the provincial government to support tourism infrastructure in the village. For the 2019-2022 funds, council has decided to build a synthetic outdoor rink, install public art along the lagoon and implement yet-to-be-determined lagoon improvements.

RELATED: Outdoor rink, lagoon improvements on the agenda for Harrison

However, there is still $173,000 leftover from the 2015-2018 budget.

Because of this, community service coordinator Rhonda Schell suggested the village undertake three projects: install electrical upgrades around the lagoon to expand Lights by the Lake for $25,000; erect a flag pole in the Plaza to acknowledge the traditional territory of the Sts’ailes First Nation for $5,000; and make improvements to the Rendall Park fence to create a more welcoming entry for $2,500.

Council was in favour of all three projects. However, other safety-based improvements to the lagoon did not get the go-ahead from council.

In a separate report to council, Schell shared the results of a recent Waterfront Aquatic Safety Audit, which looked to identify safety issues along the village’s public waterfront.

The audit gave a number of recommendations to improve safety, including the installation of a barrier between the children’s play area and the water’s edge, markers for designated swim areas and public access lifesaving equipment.

Staff recommended that council use the majority of the leftover RMI funds to install playground fencing and signage, public access life rings, a life jacket loaner station, a mobility mat for better accessibility to the beach and additional signs around the plaza and Rendall Park. Staff also suggested upgrading safety signage to comply with standard safety symbols.

These projects would come to $140,500, with the majority of the cost coming from the public education and visitor information signage.

RELATED: Be responsible for your own water safety

Although council was primarily on board with some projects, such as the mobility mat, no one was completely satisfied with the listed projects.

“I would have liked to have seen some estimated cost of maintenance and the estimated cost on staff time,” councillor Ray Hooper said, after sharing his concerns about nearly every project in the recommendations.

The life jacket loaner station was an area of particular concern, largely because of the possibility of theft.

“I think there’s a huge potential to have those jackets just conveniently, shall I say, misplaced,” councillor Michie Vidall said. “I don’t know the cost of life jackets, but I imagine it would be quite a substantial amount of funding in order to replace those on a regular basis.”

“If we do the expansion of the boat launch building, perhaps we could include in there life jacket rentals for people,” she added.

CAO Madeline McDonald said the life jacket loaner station had been a successful program when she was in Port Alice.

“The life jacket loaner program … is a very common program in many communities,” she said. “Kids grow out of life jackets very quickly, and it’s easy for people to go out boating and not necessarily have all the right-jackets on their boat.

“I do have personal experience with this program,” she added. “We found that we had more life jackets at the end of the season than we started with at the beginning of the season … It was a very successful program (although)I can’t speak for how it would operate here.”

Ultimately, council decided to refer the six audit-recommended projects back to staff for more information, including possible maintenance costs to the village.

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