People in Inuvik are keeping cool in the river — and some want the town to make it safer

·3 min read
Inuvik residents are making use of the river to stay cool while the pool remains closed for construction. Some people worry that boat traffic and strong currents make the river unsafe for swimmers. (Google - image credit)
Inuvik residents are making use of the river to stay cool while the pool remains closed for construction. Some people worry that boat traffic and strong currents make the river unsafe for swimmers. (Google - image credit)

Inuvik residents are doing what they can to beat the summer heat.

As the pool remains closed for construction, swimmers are cooling off in the river instead — and some residents worry that it's not safe for kids.

Off the Inuvik dock is a channel feeding into the Mackenzie River.

With boat traffic and strong currents, it would be easy for swimmers to be swept under, Bernice Anne Joe said.

She goes with her 10-year-old great-niece, down to the dock when the heat strikes, which lately has been almost daily.

When she supervises her niece, Joe said she's often one of only two or three adults watching the swimmers.

She doesn't mind keeping an eye on her great-niece and the other children, reminding them to keep away from boats and not go out too far. But Joe worries about something serious happening.

"Something's going to happen pretty soon and there's going to be no adults down there," she said.

"I could help, but I don't know how to swim. I just go to make sure my great-niece is being supervised and make sure that her and her friends are okay."

Other residents have taken to social media to share similar concerns, and urge the town to come up with solutions.

Joe suggests lifeguards from the pool should work by the dock instead.

"My big thing is that the town should step up and get lifeguards here. The students could put in hours, they're done school, they need a job, they could come down and play in the water with the kids and keep them safe," she said.

Mackenzie Scott/CBC
Mackenzie Scott/CBC

Inuvik town councillor Clarence Wood said that as a parent himself, he understands the safety concerns but there isn't much the town can do.

He said he's heard some suggest the town put up barriers to prevent swimmers from going out too far, or flotation devices in case of emergency. He's not sure those would make much difference.

"It comes down to supervision," he said, "The parents should be down there with their kids, somebody who can swim. And that doesn't seem to be happening."

As far as bringing in a lifeguard, Wood said the town doesn't have any on staff since the pool is closed.

Mayor Natasha Kulikowski acknowledges that it has been busier than most years at the river, but she said residents have been swimming there for years.

She became aware of safety concerns through posts circulating on Facebook, but asked concerned residents to email her or a council member directly.

She said officials are considering putting up signs telling residents they're swimming at their own risk but said the town hadn't discussed any further measures.

For anyone concerned about their children's safety, Kulikowski suggested making use of the life jacket loaner program through the Midnight Sun Recreation Complex where residents can sign a life jacket out from the centre and bring it back once they've finished their swim.

Ultimately, she said the responsibility is with the swimmers and that "people should be taking all the necessary precautions to stay safe."

"Please be safe, please have adult supervision, it's all those things that in order to keep the kids safe, we need the whole community to be involved."

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