Federal cuts to lifeguards endanger surfers, swimmers at Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park, warn union, Tofino mayor, Chamber of Commerce

VANCOUVER, June 12, 2012 /CNW/ – Surfers and swimmers at the popular Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park are at risk after federal cuts this month removed four lifeguards who have been in place each summer for nearly 40 years, says their union.

The concerns of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union representing workers at Parks Canada, are echoed by Tofino’s mayor and the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce.

And other cuts to the Coast Guard in the Tofino-Ucluelet area could put recreational boaters and commercial fishing fleets at risk, says PSAC.

“Discontinuing the Surf Guard program at Long Beach puts surfers in danger and will discourage visits to the park,” says Bob Jackson, PSAC Regional Executive Vice-President, “The four Surf Guards employed by Parks Canada perform an indispensable service: on average they perform 8 water rescues and make 800 contacts with people on the beach per season. What will happen when they’re not there and a surfer gets into trouble?”

Along with local business groups and politicians, PSAC is calling for the federal government to reverse its plans to cut the Surf Guard program at Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim National Park and close the Tofino Coast Guard Marine Communications & Traffic Services centre, says Jackson.

Surf Guards at the park watch for surfers in trouble, usually novices unaccustomed to the harsh Pacific conditions, and work to educate surfers and head off problems before they reach the water, Jackson said after a visit to Tofino this past weekend.

Tofino Mayor Perry Schmunk is also worried about the safety of surfers at Long Beach, as well as for the safety of mariners on the west coast of Vancouver Island as federal government cuts at Parks Canada and the Coast Guard unfold.

“I’m concerned what impact it has on the safety of people who use the park,” Schmunk told Global TV Monday.

“The Government has also announced plans to close the Coast Guard Marine Communications & Traffic Services centre,” continues Jackson, “These centres provide services to boaters and shipping vessels that is similar to air traffic control – monitoring and coordinating marine traffic up and down the west coast.”

“They also assist Search and Rescue in emergency situations, where local knowledge is vital. With the closure of this station all marine coordination in the area will be handled by the station in Victoria, on the other side of Vancouver Island.”

The Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce has also passed a resolution of concern and plans to express their displeasure with these cuts to public services on Vancouver Island in a letter to Ottawa this week.

“By cutting the Surf Guard program and closing the station the government continues to show complete disregard for the safety of the public,” concludes Jackson, “We call upon the government to reverse this decision and look out for the safety of surfers and mariners on Vancouver Island.”
For further information:

Patrick Bragg, PSAC Communications, cell 778 889 3486