Okanagan lake pier signs ignored

Two suffer significant injuries diving off dock at Kal Lake despite signs prohibiting activity

There are two signs clearly prohibiting diving off Rotary Pier at Kalamalka Lake as you walk onto the dock.

Four words, red letters on white background, on each side of the entryway: NO DIVING OFF PIER. They’re done in all capital letters, and a silhouette drawing of a person diving into water with a red line extending through the middle from the top left corner to bottom right corner adorns both sides of the entry posts.

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Walk down the dock, and you find 10 more signs, five on each side. Each sign clearly states, in all caps, DANGER; NO DIVING; SHALLOW WATER; DIVING MAY CAUSE DEATH OR PERMANENT INJURY.

Again, each sign is adorned with the silhouette drawing, this time encased in the familiar red warning circle.

There are 12 warning signs on the T-shaped dock in total. The water is shallow on both sides, shallow enough that an average sized person can walk toward the end of the dock and it’s not over their head.

And speaking of the end of the dock, it’s barricaded to keep people off the end at the T, still unsafe from being damaged in last year’s flooding. In fact, on the west side, only the pilings remain.

Yet two people have been injured this month diving off the dock.

One teenager suffered fractured and broken vertebrae in his neck — but no paralysis — in an early-morning incident on the August long weekend. Then, just after 8 p.m. on Aug. 19, a man believed to be in his 40s dove off the deck, hit his head underwater, was pulled out of the water unresponsive but was revived by friends and taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital. His condition is unknown.

The District of Coldstream took over responsibility for the dock from the Regional District of North Okanagan in January (though, at the time of the flooding, RDNO was responsible and it’s their insurance that’s handling the replacement or fixing of the pier. The district is still waiting for the regional district’s insurance adjuster to advise when the pier will be fixed).

“One of the things we’ll look at now is perhaps adding warning stencils on the deck as well,” said District of Coldstream chief administrative officer Trevor Seibel. “But at what point is enough in the sense of notification and advising it’s not safe, don’t do it?”

Seibel used an analogy of speeding, saying his office gets an inordinate amount of complaints of people speeding along various roads.

“We use RCMP reservists to set up in hotspots as we get them but at the end of the day, whether somebody’s there or not, people are going to speed,” he said. “Forgive me, I’m not trying to draw a parallel between speeding and breaking their neck diving. At some point, the only way people learn is through some sort of hard lesson. Even when you give them the warnings and try to keep them safe in that regard.”

The mother of the injured teenager, who did not want to be named, grew up in Vernon and swam at Kal Lake when there was a tower at the end of the dock for jumping and diving. It’s been gone for more than 30 years, and as she and Seibel pointed out, lake conditions have changed dramatically. Lake levels were a lot higher when she was growing up.

“Times have changed so much. It’s sad but maybe it (dock) has to go,” she said. “I would hate to see that but the stupidity of people (sadly my son is included in that now) won’t change and it will continue to happen.

“My son knows how stupid it was and will never dive in any body of water again. But he is a very, very lucky boy. More than he knows, I think.”

Seibel said there have been no formal talks on the future of the pier but the plan is to have it repaired.

“When it’s fixed, the pilings will be replaced and the T-dock will be back there,” he said.

Coldstream does have money set aside to do a head-of-the-lake plan for the north end of Kalamalka Lake, including the beach and parking lot. Seibel is hopeful that will be a top priority of the newly elected council in the new year.

“We’ll be going through a planning process to look at how we can improve that area,” said Seibel. “That may or may not include changes to the dock, but it is something that will get looked at through that process.”



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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