Town to designate safe area for river swimmers

FORT FRANCES—While not recommending anyone swim off the docks along the upper Rainy River, the town will be installing buoys and ladders at the one at the end of Fifth Street East in an effort to at least give swimmers a safer place to be.
Town council approved a report from Community Services manager George Bell at Monday night’s council meeting recommending the Fifth Street East dock be designated “an unsupervised swimming area,” have it buoyed off for swimming, and direct that the waterfront be signed accordingly.
This is a slight change from last summer, when council had been looking at designating the dock at the end of First Street East in such a manner.
Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft noted he’s worked around teenagers most his life, and most of them go swimming at the First Street dock. As such, he questioned why the town would focus on the Fifth Street one instead?
“In this case, I don’t think if you build it, they will come,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft remarked. “Teenagers aren’t the type of animal that will go where you want them to go; they go where they want to go.
“If we put the buoyed-off area at Fifth Street, the teenagers will continue to swim at First Street. And if we moved it down to First, they’d probably move to Fifth. I don’t know,” he chuckled.
Coun. Tannis Drysdale noted the designated dock changed from First to Fifth Street because the Community Services executive committee had since discussed the location and found the latter dock to be a safer location due to less current and boat traffic.
But she said she’s being “optimistic” in hoping teens will swim at the Fifth Street one.
“You’ve already been the parent of teenagers. I have yet to be the parent of a teenager [but] I’m going to be optimistic here and hope they will go there,” Coun. Drysdale said to Coun. Wiedenhoeft.
“We have a skateboard park and that’s where they’re skateboarding now.
“We have a responsibility with town planning to do what’s in the safest and best interest of the community,” added Coun. Drysdale. “We will try this. We will make every effort to make it work.
“I think there’s some opportunity for us to create a safer area.”
Ten years ago, not every child wore a bike helmet, Coun. Drysdale pointed out, but now parents wouldn’t think of seeing their child ride without one.
“I believe it’s an educational case,” echoed Coun. Andrew Hallikas. “If we designate this as a swimming area and we consistently upgrade it as indicated, the teenagers may not all go there at first, but the younger kids may and the parents may bring the younger kids there.
“As they get used to using that place as they grow, it will become ‘the swimming place,’” he reasoned.
Coun. John Albanese asked if Community Service considered designating the Third Street East dock in front of Rainy Lake Sports and Tackle, but Bell stressed that is a very busy area and there was no way the town could block off a port of entry from boats and planes.
Bell also noted the buoys at the Fifth Street dock likely will stretch as far out as 10 metres from the dock which, in addition to buoy markers declaring the areas as a “swimming area,” will indicate to boaters and pilots that they must not dock there.
In related news, the town also will stage a public education campaign later this spring educating parents and youths on the dangers of swimming in an unsafe environment.
Meanwhile, at Pither’s Point, the town will install a ladder at the government dock as well as put in a phone at the park office for the public to use in case of any emergencies.