Kincardine beach safety plan includes no swimming zone, beach patrols


By Barb McKay


The municipality will take several steps this year to improve safety at Station Beach.


An aquatic safety audit of the Kincardine beach has been completed by the Lifesaving Society and was presented to municipal council during its meeting last week. The report by the national organization of lifeguard experts came with an extensive list of recommendations, but there is not expected to be significant cost in implementing them.


The audit of the beach and the north and south piers was sought following the drowning death of Goderich teen Lucas Johnson last August. Several people have drowned in the lake off Station Beach in recent years.


Parks and recreation director Karen Kieffer said the Lifesaving Society does not expect all the recommendations to be implemented this year. Still, staff will work to accomplish a number of initiatives with a goal of completing the list in 2017. This year, they plan to install new, more prominent safety signage to warn of rip currents, point out an emergency telephone and indicate that swimming is not permitted off the piers. The ladders on the pier will be painted yellow for visibility and a painted yellow band around each pier will help distinguish the edge to anyone on the piers. Deputy mayor Jacqueline Faubert said painting the ladders seemed contradictory since the municipality is trying to discourage people from swimming near the piers.


“Regardless of signage, there will still be swimmers and we need to be able to get them out of the water,” said councillor Andrew White, who is parks and recreation policy chair.


Lifesaving stations will be installed on the north and south piers with buoyant lifesaving devices attached to lines that are at least eight metres long and reaching poles that are at least 3.65 metres long. Faubert said safety equipment located on the beach has been stolen in the past. Councillor Linda McKee suggested having a camera installed in the lighthouse to monitor the beach and piers and catch individuals if equipment is stolen again. Kieffer said she would talk to the Kincardine Yacht Club, which operates the lighthouse, to see if that is possible.


A key recommendation from the audit is that the municipality hire at least one beach patroller to supervise the beach during the summer months, educate beachgoers about rip currents and point out where First Aid kits are located. Unlike a lifeguard, a beach patroller would not be involved in water rescues. If an incident arose where someone was in trouble in the water the patroller would call 911. The patrollers are expected to be in place by the summer of 2017 with an associated cost of approximately $25,000.


Council members had several questions about the position, including what the full range of responsibilities would be and what training would be required. Kieffer said Michael Shane, the Lifesaving Society’s safety management director will meet with municipal staff to provide clarification on the recommendations.


“I read this report over and over and I have many questions, so I’m glad Mr. Shane is coming here,” councillor Laura Haight said.


She added there is a wide spectrum for beach safety; on one end there could be a ban on swimming all together and on the other end there could be a full Baywatch scenario. She said Kincardine’s solution seems to be somewhere in the middle, which is not unlike what other beach communities are doing.


Another recommendation that the municipality is looking toward implementing is a no swimming zone that would extend at least 250 metres south of the south pier and 250 metres north of the north pier due to the presence of strong rip currents. An area designated as a safe swimming area has also been deemed a priority. It would be located outside of the no swimming zone and be marked with buoys. Haight said she looked at images for the safe swimming zone and an aerial view shows a rip current running directly through it. It is something she would like to see addressed by Shane.


“You talk about designating a safe swimming area and swimming by its very nature is not safe,” she said.


She added that more could be done to warn swimmers about rip currents, pointing out that though some areas are prone to currents it does not mean they do not occur in other areas. She suggested that signage, perhaps a sponsored digital sign, would be beneficial near the road leading to Station Beach with messaging indicating when lake conditions are dangerous.


Other recommendations in the beach safety audit include reviewing vehicle access to the piers and establishing emergency procedures for beach patrollers and marina staff when they encounter emergency situations.


Councillor Randy Roppel said he is pleased to see action being taken but would like to see similar initiatives carried out at the Inverhuron beaches.


“We have beaches, not just a beach,” he said, adding that he would like a lifesaving station installed at Inverhuron and periodic patrols of the beaches to ensure the lifesaving equipment is there and in good condition.


The cost to implement the safety recommendations prioritized for this year is $32,000, with $20,000 in the 2016 budget to cover costs. Another $4,755 will be covered by donations and the remaining $7,745 will come out of the contingency/capital reserve fund.

and indicate that swimming is not permitted off the piers.

The stencils have now been applied to the North and South Piers. Since there is no by law in place, is this just a "we would rather you didn't"?
Honestly to even consider banning swimming off the piers is a hair brained idea... The people of Kincardine have been swimming there since they where constructed. Signage just makes the Town liable. i.e.(you knew their was a problem and you did not control it...)

Beach patrols Yes
Life saving equipment Yes
Signage warning of Rip Currents Yes
Painting ladders Yellow Yes
Banning swimming... NO