A Ucluelet man has started a petition calling for lifeguards to be brought back to Long Beach in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
“We, the undersigned, residents of British Columbia and visitors to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, call upon the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to reinstate the surf guard tower and surf guard services, and extend the duration of the surf guard program to accommodate the growing number of emergencies as well as visitors at Long Beach in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve,” Justin Merk wrote in the petition.
Merk started the petition on Wednesday and by the early afternoon, it had 170 signatures.
“Emergencies on Long Beach are attended by Parks Canada in collaboration with the Canadian Coast Guard, Westcoast Inland Search and Rescue, B.C. Emergency Response Group, and the RCMP; however, rescues initially fall in the hands of surfers and beachgoers,” Merk wrote in the petition to the federal minister of environment and climate change, Catherine McKenna.
Long Beach, a part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, had a Surf Guard program for close to four decades but was axed in 2012 due to federal budget cuts. When the program was running, four seasonal lifeguards were employed from mid-June to mid-September.
In his petition, Merk listed three separate incidents that have occurred since the program was discontinued. The first was on Feb. 10, 2018, when Nijin John, a University of Victoria PhD student died in a surfing accident. The second was on May 20, 2018, when Ann Wittenberg, a mother of three, died in a surfing accident hours before her daughter’s wedding in Tofino. The third was this year, on March 26, 2019, when four people spent around two hours trapped by seas on Lovekin Rock off Long Beach. A Royal Canadian Air Force Cormorant Helicopter rescued the group.
Gord Johns, the NDP MP for Courtenay – Alberni, has supported bringing the lifeguards back.
According to Parks Canada in the 2017-2018 website, there were 1,131,418 people who visited the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
The petition can be found here. It closes on May 3, 2019.