The Town of Huntsville has installed lifesaving equipment at two beaches, in the first phase of a plan to make water access points safer.

Council voted in July to purchase and install lifesaving buoy rings, as well as instructional signs, at Port Sydney Beach and Hutcheson Beach. Councillors also voted to create a plan to install equipment and signage at other water access points, and directed staff to prepare a report on future phases of the plan.

The next step, according to Huntsville Director of Community Services Simone Babineau, is to recategorize water access points.

“We have to recategorize all of our access points to meet the Lifesaving Society’s categories,” says Babineau. “That will allow us to bring back a report to General Committee that will provide a recommendation of the next phase or phases of this implementation plan.”

The initial report from staff said Huntsville had 40 known water access points on public land, 17 of which are publicly advertised. The cost of installing a vandal proof holder, ring buoy and rope, and signage is about $1,400 per location.

Babineau says she hopes people will respect the equipment and its purpose.“Because people are visiting these locations quite frequently, these are pieces of equipment that don’t get vandalised very often,” says Babineau. “We’re trusting that our public knows that they are there for people’s safety, for all of us, so we are trusting that those pieces of equipment won’t be vandalised and that they’ll be used.”

Even when safety equipment is present, Babineau says people should take steps to ensure their safety around water.

“Everyone should learn how to swim, especially when you’re here where lakes, rivers, and streams are flowing,” says Babineau. “Always swim with a buddy, children and non-swimmers should always be supervised around the water, you should be wearing a lifejacket whenever you’re in a boat, and alcohol and water don’t mix.”

Huntsville offers swimming lessons year-round.