BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Council way off course

Columnist Richard Rolke questions Coldstream council's focus on Search and Rescue's use of a boat launch

As we all know, a young woman recently sustained injuries while diving off the cliffs into Kalamalka Lake.

Since then, much of the debate has revolved around the dangerous activity, which has claimed lives over the years, and whether steps can be taken to prevent future incidents.

But not in Coldstream where politicians are more focused on the response from members of the Vernon Search and Rescue unit.

“It seems emergency services chose the wrong boat launch to use — the busiest boat launch on one of the busiest weekends,” said Coun. Richard Enns of the Kalavista Drive launch.

As it was a beautiful summer day, there’s no question that the Kalavista Drive launch would have been busy as locals and tourists soaked up the sun on the lake.

It is also a well known fact that traffic congestion problems exist on the road and that issue has driven the municipality’s agenda in recent years.

However, it should be pointed out that time is of the essence during an emergency and it’s likely Vernon Search and Rescue headed to the boat launch that was the closest and provided easy access. Instead of worrying about whether a few boaters or residents were inconvenienced, the goal was to provide assistance to someone whose life could have been in jeopardy.

Mayor Jim Garlick has suggested that emergency personnel determine where the best location is to launch a boat from. But where would that be?

Kekuli Bay Provincial Park is too far down Highway 97 so by the time Search and Rescue gets there, it may be too late to help a person in distress. There are also boat launches on Westkal Road and Kinloch Drive but they are extremely small and there is even less parking available than on Kalavista Drive. You can also expect that they are at capacity on a hot summer day.

Now did Coldstream council receive complaints about Vernon Search and Rescue’s use of the Kalavista boat launch that day or is this is just a hold-over from the previous conflict between boaters and residents there?

In reality, one would expect that most boaters, including those who live along Kalavista Drive, would be appreciative of Search and Rescue and any other emergency personnel given that any time you go out on the lake, there is the prospect of needing assistance yourself.

Obviously Search and Rescue can take measures to ensure the flow of vehicle traffic, especially for ambulances, but did this really warrant debate at Coldstream council?

What’s next — slamming the fire department for blocking off busy Kalamalka Road because of a blaze or pointing fingers at  RCMP officers when an accident slows traffic down?

Instead of expressing concerns, Coldstream council should have been extending praise to Vernon Search and Rescue, particularly given that all of the members are volunteer and are not paid to go out and help those in need. If Coldstream or other municipalities had to take on the responsibility of such a service themselves, the cost to taxpayers would soar.

But, thankfully, there are some reasonable opinions around Coldstream council chambers.

Going against the grain, Coun. Gyula Kiss defended Search and Rescue and dismissed the need to develop boat launch protocols.

“This type of thing doesn’t happen very often, maybe once a year,” he said.


And it was with those few words that some perspective was brought to the entire discussion. Such instances rarely occur so why is this even on the radar?



Vernon Morning Star