A number of incidents at Thetis Lake this past summer has renewed the call for better supervision at the popular park, but don’t expect to see lifeguards on duty anytime soon.
The Capital Regional District yesterday voted against the measure, instead choosing to focus on providing better signage in the park and more information on safe swimming practices on the CRD website.
A staff report listed five drownings at Thetis Lake since 1999, in addition to three other serious incidents — including two this year.
Lifeguard services were provided between 1970 to 1990 when the park was operated by the City of Victoria, but that was cancelled in 1991.
Services again resumed between 1994 and 2002 but haven’t been available in 15 years. At the time, the Regional Parks Committee chose to discontinue lifeguard services due to lack of budget, challenges with recruiting qualified lifeguards and a trend towards removing these services in other municipalities.
CRD Chair Barb Desjardins supported the motion as many of the recent incidents did not occur near the main beach area, much to the dismay of View Royal Mayor David Screech — the only member voting against the motion.
“I want to make it clear, we weren’t asking for lifeguards in the different areas, we were asking for the main beach, and our council thinks it’s still important to do that,” said Screech.
“And there have been drownings within metres of the main beach, because of the drop off and they were ESL (English as a second language) students who can’t read the signs, but… there are problems in that park.”
He also points to the amount of underage drinking that occurs during the summer months and cliff jumping incidents that have been alcohol related.
The lack of proficiency in English remains another important factor as the staff report goes on to say three of the five people who drowned at Thetis Lake since 1999 — and all four of the serious incidents in 2014 and 2017 — were international visitors with limited knowledge of the English language.
The CRD estimates it would cost $70,000 annually to provide lifeguard services at Thetis Lake.