The Columbia Valley’s first hovercraft is likely to arrive in Windermere by the end of May, after a $65,000 gaming grant towards a new rescue hovercraft was allocated on March 26th to the Kinsmen Club of the Windermere Valley.
The winter-long campaign towards raising more than $50,000 for an ice rescue vehicle to serve the Lake Windermere area paid off early. The funds green-lighted by Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Bill Bennett mean the Windermere Fire Department will have the hovercraft in its fleet this summer.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Windermere resident Danny Osborne, who spearheaded the fundraiser for a hovercraft. “It was truly a community effort. We were hoping that we would get some portion towards the gap that was remaining, but to have that gap fully closed and then some to handle additional needs like the training element is absolutely fantastic.”
The Hovertechnics Hoverguard 700 ship will be ordered within a week, said Windermere Fire Chief Jim Miller, and will be transported to the valley on the back of another donation — a custom $4,000 trailer being donated by Calgary’s TCB Trailer Service and Repair.
The company is making the donation in honour of Wilbur and Helen Melendy, who started a family tradition of seasonal escapes to Windermere by building a home at Trethewey Beach in 1971.
Mr. Osborne deserves much of the credit for completing the fundraising goal so much sooner than expected, said Chief Miller.
“The fire department is greatly indebted to his work,” said Windermere Fire Chief Jim Miller. “He went to meetings all over and even on his time off, he would keep himself busy on the phone and email.”
The excess $15,000 will mean extended training to more firemen and an expansion of the equipment list associated with the craft, which includes ice rescue gear, personal flotation devices, and possibly a GPS for tracking, said Chief Miller.
“It’ll be in service this summer, and the beauty of this thing is you can use it year-round,” he said. “To navigate the rivers and swamps between Radium and Fairmont won’t cause any damage. Thats the beauty of this environmentally friendly watercraft – it doesn’t make a wave on the water.”
Mr. Bennett says he learned of the need for the rescue vehicle through the BC Liberal candidate for this riding, Doug Clovechok.
“My office in Victoria has had many discussions with Danny and firefighters in the valley, and we soon learned that it was a very genuine need and that it would fill a very important gap in terms of being able to rescue on water or an assumed frozen lake,” he said.
“A couple of years ago I put a snowmobile through the ice on a lake in 30 feet of moving water while I was by myself,” added Mr. Bennett. “I only survived because a friend came out on another snowmobile and threw me a rope and pulled me out.”