Coastal Voices: Things to consider about jetty access

By Malinda Sarbacker-Wiley February 04, 2013 05:05 pm

I was very disappointed to see the results of the Triplicate’s online poll regarding whether or not walking onto the jetty should be illegal.

As of this writing, over 60 percent of the voters believe that being out on the jetty should be legal. That being said, I realize that many are unlikely to agree with my opinion. However, I feel that there are aspects of our community’s well-being and safety of which many are unaware.

Let me preface my statement by saying that I think all people should be able to enjoy the beauty that our area has to offer. However, I would ask Crescent City residents to consider the lives of people that have been lost or those who have been injured as a result of being swept off the jetty before you make up your mind as to whether it is worth the risk to continue to lose members of our community to the dangerous conditions (sometimes foreseeable, sometimes not) that occur on the jetty.

Another point to consider is that it is not only the lives of those who walk out onto the jetty that are at risk. We must also consider the lives of those who respond to try to save people once they have been swept into the rough waters. The boating safety deputies and civilian volunteers, the Search and Rescue volunteers, Fire Department volunteers, Coast Guard rescue swimmers and helicopter pilots also put their own lives at risk every time they respond to these types of incidents.

We also have to think about the city and county resources that are used to deploy police officers, deputies, fire rescue resources, and paramedics to the scene.

As a part-time dispatcher for the Sheriff’s Department, I am able to observe that these incidents do not occur within a bubble. They are happening at the same time that your mother is having difficulty breathing, your son gets in a car accident, or your house gets burglarized.

Many times, the resources that would ordinarily be dispatched immediately in such circumstances are delayed due to the fact that our dispatch center (staffed by one person) is trying to dispatch Search and Rescue, boating safety, etc., at the same time that we are trying to answer your 911 call for assistance.

Responses to emergency calls are also delayed due to the fact that police officers, deputies and paramedics may be tied up on the scene of a rescue for an extended time period before they are able to respond to other calls.

While some might argue that there are safe times to go out onto the jetty so we should not ban everyone for the miscalculations or lack of judgment of the few, I would respond that if we as a community decide to not allow anyone out on the jetty we could potentially save the lives of those who would otherwise be swept off during times of rough seas, or even by sneaker waves that are difficult to foresee.

There are plenty of other places to enjoy the beauty of our area, and while I realize that many in our community share an emotional connection to the jetty based on memories of time spent with family, etc., we need to consider our neighbors’ love for their family and the grief and loss that they would experience if it were their family that was lost as a result of venturing out onto the jetty.

I must admit that my motivations for writing are self-serving. The staff I’ve mentioned who respond to try to rescue someone washed off the jetty include my own husband, my co-workers, and some of my best friends. All of these people also have families that worry when their loved one responds to a rescue attempt that they may not return.

We live in a small town community and most readers know someone or love someone who is a first responder. These incidents are completely preventable and I would urge our community to reconsider its opinion about allowing people on the jetty.

Eventually the decision regarding whether or not it is legal for people to go out onto the jetty is up to the Army Corps of Engineers. However, we as citizens do have means and opportunities to decide what is best for our community and to act accordingly.

Malinda Sarbacker-Wiley is a Crescent City resident.