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Life rings, signs to improve safety on Harrison waterfront

Harrison council approved $125,000 in aquatic safety projects for the beach
Signs around the lagoon will be getting a face lift to include standard caution symbols. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)

New signs, some life rings, a swim grid and a beach accessibility mat will be coming to Harrison to improve its waterfront safety.

In council Monday (April 15), community services coordinator Rhonda Schell recommended that council spend $125,000 of its existing resort municipality initiative funds to upgrade safety on the beach.

“The Aquatic Safety Audit has recommendations to maximize safety at the village’s public waterfront,” she said. “With more information, staff is recommending that the … recommendations be implemented at this time.”

The aquatic safety upgrades were first brought up at the March 12 council meeting, where council decided it needed more information to make a decision on what projects to support.

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

At that meeting, a life jacket loaner station was proposed for Harrison beach, although council shared a number of concerns about the loaner station.

The life jackets did not end up being part of the aquatic safety recommendations brought back to council on April 15; according to Schell, the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary used to administer the program, but they no longer run it.

“Staff is looking at options to either partner with another program or find another program that runs it,” she said.

The revised recommendations included seven public access life rings, to be mounted near the float plane dock, west beach, lagoon and Rendall Park; a public education and visitor information kiosk at the plaza; a Mobi-Mat that can be left on the beach for better accessibility to the water for wheelchair users; a swim grid and buoys on the western beach to prevent swimmers from going into deep waters; and upgrades to safety signage so it includes standard caution symbols.

The majority of the funding would go to support the $100,000 public education and visitor information signage.

“What we’re considering is considerable structures as part of the signage,” CAO Madeline McDonald said. “As you can imagine, when we look at these sort of sign installations in public squares and plazas … it’s not simply signs on poles. These will be signage structures, requiring building permits.”

Both councillors Gerry Palmer and Ray Hooper expressed concerns about the signage. Palmer said he thought the signs were too much money, but added that he was “slowly learning that everything costs more money than I thought it would cost.”

“But I suppose if it saves a life or causes anyone to have their life saved as a result of it, then it’s money well-spent I guess,” he said.

Hooper said he felt there would be too many signs on the beachfront, and that putting a large structure in the plaza would detract from the atmosphere in the plaza.

“Do we really need to put signs up that say ‘this is clean municipal water’ on the showers?” he said.

Schell noted that although the Aquatic Safety Audit identified 44 different areas of concern, it would not be necessary to have signs at all 44 locations. The village will be taking a signage inventory before deciding where to place additional signs and where to consolidate signage.

Before calling the question on the recommendations, mayor Leo Facio said spoke in favour of the Mobi-Mat, which is placed on the sand to allow wheelchair users to get down to the waterfront.

“That was something that we’re giving the opportunity to disable children or adults to get down to the beach,” he said.

“I think it’s giving disability people something more to get down with their families, instead of sitting up on top on the grass and watching their families doing their part in the water.”

Ultimately, council approved the $125,000 in safety projects. The work is expected to be done for this tourism season.

RELATED: Extra $20K from Harrison for Ranger Station upgrades

Council also approved up to $30,000 in funding for CTQ Consultants to develop a lagoon master plan.

The lagoon master plan will identify possible improvements for the Harrison lagoon, including a barrier to prevent flooding in the beachfront washrooms and playground. The plan will include public consultation and be funded from additional money in the federal Gas Tax Fund.

The master plan is expected to be complete by July 31, 2019.

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