(HELENA) Leaders say a program to provide loaner life jackets for visitors to Spring Meadow Lake State Park is already a success.
Five new “life jacket stations” at the park were officially dedicated Friday, at an event recognizing the people who helped make the program possible.
Agencies like Lewis and Clark Search and Rescue and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks partnered with business sponsors like Toyota and Home Depot to provide about 100 complimentary life jackets at the park. Local Boy Scout Peter Lund designed the wooden stations, which hang from the back of picnic shelters around the lake.
The life jackets come in a variety of sizes, for children and adults. Each station also includes information on how to properly fit the jackets.
Mariah Davis, a volunteer with Lewis and Clark Search and Rescue, said there were previously life jackets available in the park ranger’s office, but only when someone was there to open the door. She said this program means children will be able to simply take a jacket as soon as they arrive at the lake.
Davis said it’s especially important to wear life jackets around natural bodies of water – whether lakes and ponds or rivers and streams.
“It’s far more dangerous than a pool, where the water is clear and you can see the bottom, or if a child needs help you might possibly see them go under,” she said. “Here at Spring Meadow Lake, the depth changes so dramatically and so quickly – it used to be a gravel pit. It changes without warning, children and parents don’t know the depth, and so one step you might be head above water, the next you might be under.”
Though the new life jackets have only been in place for a short time, Davis said they’ve already seen a lot of use.
“Almost every time I come down to the lake, especially when it’s busy, there’s at least ten kids in the water wearing these jackets, which is amazing,” she said.
The goal of the program is to have at least 100 life jackets on the ground and available at any time.
“We would like to help save lives by having life jackets available for everyone, in every size,” said Davis.