Several miles of a local beach may be safer for the public thanks to a life-saving effort of three local groups.
Volunteers from the Wilmington Cape Fear Rotary Club and staff from the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area and the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher assembled and installed 10 rescue tubes along a 5-mile stretch of beach south of the Fort Fisher Historic Site on Wednesday morning, according to a news release from the aquarium.
The tubes can be used to assist in emergency water rescue situations. Imprinted with safety instructions and attached to accessible poles, the floatation devices will be evenly spaced along the recreation area shoreline in areas with limited to no lifeguard coverage.
“Our number one priority has always been visitor protection and safety,” said Jeffrey Owen, park superintendent at the recreation area. “While we do have lifeguards on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day, their primary duty is the pedestrian beach, which is a mile in length. However the four wheel drive beach, which receives thousands of visitors each year, is an unprotected area with no lifeguards on duty.”
Lifeguards have made 10 rescues so far in 2015 at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. Eighteen rescues were reported in 2014.
The idea for the tubes originated with Wilmington Cape Fear Rotary Club past-president Connie Knox, who learned through Rotary connections of the Rescue Tube Foundation in Kauai, Hawaii. Rescue tubes on that island are credited with assisting in more than 100 reported water saves. Knox floated the idea to other Rotary Club members, including Paul Woodworth, who personally helped fund the project through the club.
“We learned that public access to the tubes in Hawaii had saved many lives,” said Knox. “Installing them locally at the state recreation area benefits locals and visitors and could make a powerful difference in an emergency situation, making our beaches safer for everyone.”
Rescue tubes will be accessible from March to November. They will be managed by state park officials and removed during the winter when temperatures drop below freezing.
Wilmington Cape Fear Rotary Club funded the project with some assistance from the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.