While repairs will be made to the aging CNR wharf, West Kelowna council has decided moving the Gellatly diving platform to another location would not make the popular swimming area any safer.
Operations manager Gordon Brown said a safety audit was conducted in both 2009 and 2010. The audit focused on the condition of the CNR wharf, and noted there is risk associated with poor conditions.
The risk assessment found people were diving off the CNR wharf as well as the established diving platform. The wharf was never built to be a diving platform, but was constructed as a facility for boat moorage.
Recommendations involved improving the condition of the railing, removing the access ladder, adding more signage, making repairs to the decking, cutting off protruding bolts, tying up the frayed cabling and cleaning off graffiti.
Brown pointed out the major issue is not the depth of water below the wharf, but the likelihood of hitting one of the support structures below when diving.
The district’s risk assessor recommended the diving platform be moved to another location away from the wharf, to remove the temptation for people to jump from the aging structure.
The capital cost for repairs to the wharf and moving the diving platform to Willow Beach would have been up to $4,500.
Coun. Rosalind Neis noted the only way she had found for municipalities to completely absolve themselves from a lawsuit is to have people sign a waiver.
She pointed out West Kelowna has ice rinks and a skateboard park, all facilities that can lead to personal risk or injury.
Coun. Bryden Winsby pointed out there are differences between being concerned about safety and being concerned about liability.
“If we have a definite public safety hazard here, get rid of it. If we don’t, let’s take another look at this.”
Coun. Duane Ophus noted the fundamental issue is the wharf and where the district is going with it over the long-term.
“Obviously we need to be doing regular upkeep and maintenance.”
He pointed out the wharf is a historic site, and that’s why it was recreated at the Gellatly Bay location.
Ophus did not believe there would be any significant additional risk mitigated by moving the diving platform from its current location to Willow Beach.
Mayor Doug Findlater noted the district may want to explore other ways to mitigate injury and liability.
He pointed out Peachland has a rope swing allowing people to run and jump off into the lake, and it seems to work quite well for them.
He said if the major concern is that people could fall or dive close to the wharf, the district should examine what they can do to enhance the structure or find another way to deal with the safety issue.
Coun. Gord Milsom noted the wharf area is deteriorating more each and every year. He added he thought the move was a responsible recommendation.
“Why wouldn’t we reduce risk if it is possible to do so?”
Coucil moved to leave the diving platform in place, complete the minor repairs to the CNR wharf and install fencing and signs to inform the public of the risks of diving from the wharf.