CoastSmart, a public safety pilot project led by Parks Canada, the District of Tofino and the District of Ucluelet, was officially unveiled at the Kwisitis visitor centre on Saturday.
The multi-faceted ocean safety campaign includes signage, videos, a responsive website, brochures, whistles, coasters, stickers and more.
Eleven local heroes like professional surfer Pete Devries, Wild Pacific Trail founder Oyster Jim Martin and Lifesaving instructor Shandy Kariatsumari were selected to be CoastSmart ambassadors. They are featured on posters and in promotional videos, which can be viewed and downloaded for free at CoastSmart.ca. The CoastSmart project was the brainchild of Parks Canada visitor safety specialist Randy Mercer. He started working on the coastal safety initiative back in 2013.
“It’s amazing to see an idea go from an idea to fruition. It’s really what we envisioned in the beginning was the collaboration with everybody really; with the districts and the business community and residents,” said Mercer.
“We have a long history of coastal culture in Canada. We have the largest coastline in the world. And I think that’s something to share with people from coast to coast. I come from the other coast so I think for me personally, it’s all about sharing information and basic knowledge about the ocean environment. I get really stoked about sharing that with people. To me, that’s what this is all about,” he said.
Over the next few months, Mercer said various levels of signage will be installed on all public access beaches maintained by the districts and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
A CoastSmart App will also be available soon.
“It’s made to direct people to the best place to go for their activity with information that was vetted by the community. So what are some of the best places to go storm watching, safe places,” Mercer explained. “Ideally, people would have this [coastal safety] knowledge in their trip planning cycle. So before they leave their home they’ve already began to educate themselves. By the time they actually get here it’s just reinforced by what they see or hear.”
Wendy Heshka from Think Creative Strategies Inc. was hired by Parks Canada to create the communication and education strategy for CoastSmart.
“The goal of CoastSmart is to weave the concepts and thoughts of ocean safety into fabric of Canadian culture…I’m privileged to have been a part of that,” she said. “We’ve been working for the past 10-months on research, stakeholder consultation and researching best practices around the world from what other countries like Australia, Hawaii and the UK do for safety.”
Mercer noted that in order to gauge the success of the campaign, it will be necessary to pool information from all agencies involved.
“BC Ambulance, Parks, the hospital, everybody sees a part of the picture of what’s happening,” he said. “Ultimately in the future going forward for the region we’ve all agreed amongst the agencies to try to share our information and actually monitor [incidences] in a bigger picture.”