A safe boating initiative recently launched in the fly-in community of Old Crow, Yukon.
On Friday, September 1st, 2017, community members in Old Crow gathered at the local boat launch to celebrate the unveiling of a new Life Jacket Loan & Return Station.
The station encourages community members to stay safe in the water by borrowing a life jacket when heading out boating, and returning it afterwards. It is located at the community boat launch near the Co-op store, and is equipped with life jackets in a variety of sizes.
The idea for a Life Jacket Loan & Return Station was first introduced by Ms. Tracy Rispin, General Manager of the Old Crow Co-op, in the Spring of 2017. On a trip to Fort Yukon, Alaska, Ms. Rispin had seen a similar life jacket station. To help encourage boat safety in Old Crow, she raised the idea with the RCMP and Vuntut Gwitchin Government Chief and Council. A partnership was quickly formed and plans got underway to build the wooden structure, create signage, and purchase life jackets.
"I am very pleased with the implementation of this community project that has brought all parties to work together and provide a positive initiative to the community," said Ms. Tracy Rispin. "Haii' choo to Deacon Marion Schafer for the offering of prayer over the Chyahnjik (Crow) and Ch'oodeenjik (Porcupine) Rivers. These Rivers are a part of our every day life as Vuntut Gwitchin and over time there has been loss. We remembered and prayed for the families."
"The Vuntut Gwitchin spends the majority of our time on the land and on the water; most of our subsistence comes from harvesting from the Porcupine River. We've tragically lost lives on that river and know the water is nothing to play around with," said Paul Josie, Councillor, Vuntut Gwitchin Government. "This Loan & Return Station is a positive step in teaching the next generation about water safety. Having access to life jackets for our community is a proactive approach for water safety."
"The Old Crow RCMP was pleased to work with our community partners on this safe boating initiative," said Corporal Yvon Largess, Detachment Commander, Old Crow RCMP. "Having life jackets available for community members will allow both Elders and youth to benefit from a safer boating experience, and for all boaters to be better prepared in the event of an emergency on the water."
A total of approximately 100 life jackets are now available for this program. Given this quantity, tentative plans have been made to add a second life jacket station at an alternate boat launch in the community in the spring of 2018.
The Life Jacket Loan & Return Station is a partnership between the Old Crow RCMP, Vuntut Gwitchin Government and Old Crow Co-op, with thanks to Whitehorse Canadian Tire for their generous contribution of 50 life jackets to help stock the life jacket station and get this program off the ground.