Boatnik Fun & Safety on the Backs of Volunteers
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

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Every Memorial weekend, a montage of Boatnik events comes together seamlessly, with minimal incidents or issues. This is, no doubt, thanks to the Grants Pass Active Club that donates its time and resources to diligently coordinating and promoting the event.

In addition, there are numerous other unsung heroes who make the event a success.

About one-third of the 120 Josephine County Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteers will donate their time to 2011 Boatnik safety staffing.

The SAR dive team currently has nine members who will volunteer at this year's races, both as divers and rescue swimmers. They are assigned to law enforcement boats posted along the race route so they can respond rapidly.

The Josephine County Sheriff's Office provides two of the law enforcement boats, and other sheriffs from Coos, Douglas, Klamath and Jackson counties, as well as OSP, contribute their boats and operators.

SAR dive team members pay for all of their own personal equipment and most of their certifications, which together easily exceed a thousand dollars. During Boatnik, they may rescue ejected passengers or untangle debris from a boat.

Sheriff's Office marine deputy Ernie Fields says, "There are a tremendous amount of volunteer hours that go into Boatnik during the year, and the volunteers have always been great." There will also be additional SAR volunteers stationed on the river banks to raise a flag to notify operators of any crashes.

Josephine County Emergency Communications (JCEC) will have about two dozen volunteers posted along the river banks on Monday to count boats between check points and communicate with Command if there are any unaccounted for.

This enables Command, staffed by SAR coordinator Sara Rubrecht and JCEC Emergency Coordinator Brian Fritsen, to dispatch a law enforcement boat as soon as possible. "The sooner we can get a rescue boat out there with paramedics and rescue swimmers, the sooner we can help them out, and possibly save a life," says Rubrecht.

Fritsen says that, in previous years, JCEC volunteers donated nearly 600 hours to preparing for the event. Now, volunteer technicians know the drill and can execute their mission with minimal preparation.

In the park area, Josephine County Sheriff's Office reserve deputies will be ensuring it is secure, patrolling on foot and golf cart. They are contracted by the Grants Pass Active Club, but reserve coordinator Chris Watson says they will provide double the staffing that was paid for. "I want them to get the training and experience at a non-emergency event," Watson says.

Each reserve deputy donates at least 16 hours a month to the community, but many of them donate far more; one reserve recently donated nearly 200 hours in one month.

On the streets, you won't be able to miss the 15 or more SAR traffic control volunteers, who will be sporting their bright orange shirts and keeping incidents to a minimum during Saturday's parade.

Volunteers from Josephine County Search and Rescue, the Josephine County Sheriff's Office, Josephine County Emergency Communications, the Grants Pass Active Club and many others make Boatnik Memorial weekend a fun and safe event for all involved. They donate their time freely without compensation or recognition, so, when you see those orange shirts and safety vests, say thanks.

In 2010, Search and Rescue volunteers donated 17,955 hours:

948 hours to public events
3,076 hours to SAR missions
13,931 hours to training & preparation

"So that others may live..."

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