The City of Penticton says the railings it installed along the new Okanagan Lake walkway are good enough.
A review of the railings, which were installed as part of the $2.3-million waterfront makeover last year, was prompted by an incident in March. A three-year-old boy, out for a walk with his father, slipped through the railings near the Peach, falling into Okanagan Lake. Fortunately, the boy was not injured by his fall into the shallow water below the walkway.
The results of the review were presented at council this week, along with a recommendation to fill in the lower parts of the railing with perforated metal plates at an estimated cost of between $14,000 and $28,000.
Council, however, wasn’t sold on the need for the city to take action, despite advice from the city’s legal counsel that it would be difficult to predict whether a judge would hold the city liable in the face of another accident.
“They also said the court may impart a greater level of responsibility on a local government in regards to public safety,” said director of operations Mitch Moroziuk.
Coun. Helena Konanz said that one incident did not convince her there was a problem with the railings, while Coun. Katie Robinson argued that blocking half the height of the railing might make the problem worse.
“It seems like they would climb over and it is further to fall. I would rather stay with the status quo than do anything halfway,” said Robinson. “I can’t see where this is really going to solve the problem.”
Robinson pointed out that even if the city installed the barriers, a child could just as easily run the other direction into traffic along Lakeshore Drive.
“Somewhere, you have to draw the line on what is reasonable,” said Robinson.
Coun. Judy Sentes, a grandmother herself, was also not convinced the city had a problem, saying it is the responsibility of parents to look after their children.
“Toddlers, you don’t let them out of your sight. I am not in favour of us going forward with this,” said Sentes. “I think it is the responsibility of families. We can’t be the guardian for everyone on everything.”
Sentes’ view was shared by the rest of council, including Coun. Andrew Jakubeit, who wondered if the city should also look at installing bubble wrap dispensers along the waterfront.
“Instead of just having the doggie bags free, we will also have bubble wrap free for people that are walking there,” said Jakubeit.
The original decision to use the open railings was not part of the original design, but was made later by the oversight committee charged with keeping the project on budget and on time.
“We looked at a lot of different railings that were available and there were many we could have used. We decided to use something more beefy,” said Coun. Helena Konanz. “We were thinking about safety all the time, but I guess anything is possible.”
Mayor Garry Litke said the committee reviewed other areas where children play, like school grounds, and found similar examples.
“There are opportunities for children to injure themselves all around this community. We don’t go around making it so no one can ever hurt themselves,” said Litke, adding that the new walkway along Okanagan Lake is considered one of Penticton’s prime attractions. “To significantly alter that because of one mishap seems like an overreaction.”
The matter did not come to a vote by council. Coun. Wes Hopkin moved council approve the recommendation, but it failed to find a seconder and the motion was dropped.