The current headquarters for Vernon Search and Rescue is located in Coldstream adjacent to the Regional District of North Okanagan administrative office. Photo credit: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Vernon SAR seeking a new home

Equipment resources beyond capacity of search & rescue headquarters

Vernon Search and Rescue services have outgrown their existing headquarters on Aberdeen Road in Coldstream.

But the question of where they might relocate in bigger surroundings is a process the society behind Vernon SAR and the Regional District of North Okanagan are now beginning to address.

Leigh Pearson, involved with Vernon SAR since 1987, said the existing building is too small to house all their resources.

“I half jokingly say the boats fit better now that the paint has rubbed off the sides of them. It’s pretty tight fit and there is no room for anything else,” Pearson said.

Those Vernon SAR resources include an initial response truck, a command truck, two jet boats, four ATVs, three sleds and a full complement of various high-angle and water rescue equipment.

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As such, its rescue personnel are often requested to assist other search and rescue units in a mutual aid capacity.

Vernon SAR was founded in 1960 and considered one of the “anchor” search and rescue units in B.C., with more than 60 volunteer members on call 24 hours a day.

Pearson said the Vernon SAR Society is “just starting to get the ball rolling” on how to upgrade the existing facility or find a new home.

“We will need funding support and it will probably be expensive no matter how we do it,” Pearson said.

“In terms of a timeline, probably the sooner the better but we’ll see what happens.”

Helping guide the society forward is David Sewell, chief administrative officer of the Regional District of North Okanagan.

In response to questions about the Vernon SAR building from Vernon director Brian Quiring at the most recent regional board meeting, Sewell said he is helping steer the process to a point where the regional district can address the funding needs and the society has a plan for moving forward.

“What we are trying to do here is get everyone to the finish line at the same time,” Sewell said.

In a later interview with the Vernon Morning Star, Sewell said there is consensus the current facility is inadequate, but a feasibility study needs to be undertaken on how to proceed.

“We need to look at what is needed, how much it will cost, where it could be located and who participates in the funding process,” said Sewell.

“It’s always a balancing act between what do you want and what do you need. Sometimes there is a bit of difference between those two.”

Sewell said the idea of expanding the existing facility has been negated by environment concerns, as expanding the building would encroach protected wetlands habitat.

“There would be hurdles to overcome to pursue that option and the cost to that would not be insignificant, so when the price keeps going up sometimes it’s better to look at a new location.”

Sewell said the feasibility study would allow an opportunity to take inventory of public land holdings within the regional district or other jurisdictions.

“If you can find synergies where a location could be found it certainly would help defray costs up front by not having to acquire land,” he said.

He said RDNO has not budgeted to replace the facility, so a financial commitment would have to be discussed by the board, and alternate funding sources can be explored, from public fundraising to provincial programs.


 


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