EDITORIAL: The CRD needs to take a close look at lifeguards at Thetis Lake

Budget contraints don’t cut it when lives are at risk

It seems like every time there’s a serious incident at Thetis Lake, the question of whether there should be lifeguards at that particular beach surfaces again. Two recent reminders of how things can go wrong in an instant raised the question once again, with bystanders having to come to the aid of three people in danger of drowning.

The sad fact is that at least six people have lost their lives in the waters of Thetis Lake since 2004, the first summer after the lifeguard program was cancelled by Capital Regional District Parks. That’s a statistic that underlines the dangers that particular lake poses to even experienced swimmers, let alone the thousands of first-time visitors from all over the world who flock to the popular spot during the summer. You simply won’t find the same number of fatalities for any similar time frame back when lifeguards were in place at the beach.

In addition to the dangers associated with any body of water where people like to swim, the cliffs at Thetis pose other hazards for those who want to dive from them, or hikers who stumble near the edge. While it would be naive to believe that warning signs and the presence of lifeguards will ever deter that behaviour completely, there’s no arguing that lifeguards reduce the risk of loss of life wherever they’re stationed.

That’s why it’s of paramount importance for the CRD Parks board to take a long, close look at a motion passed by View Royal council last week reiterating previous requests for lifeguards at Thetis Lake. Although the motion won’t be considered in time for this summer’s hordes of swimmers, at least it sets the stage for a sober assessment of the question before next summer rolls around.

Yes, it will cost money to staff the lake with lifeguards, and it will also raise the question of whether the CRD needs to consider the same options at Beaver and Elk lakes. Recent events and six deaths in a little more than a dozen years begs scrutiny. While we won’t suggest that the total cost would be a pittance, when you consider that the CRD’s operating budget for 2016 weighed in at more than $263 million, it’s difficult not to argue the funds could be found somewhere within the 200 or so services the CRD provides.

If it means a little trim here or a cutback there to something else that doesn’t have deadly consequences, it’s worth every effort to make it work. After all, it’s impossible to put a price on a human life.

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