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Evening Times - May 18, 2009

Don’t go near the water

by Caroline Wilson

SAFETY experts are warning the public to be aware of the dangers of park ponds and rivers as summer approaches. It follows an investigation by the Evening Times which shows many of Glasgow's green spaces are failing to provide basic water safety measures such as life belts, protective fencing and warning signs. Figures show that more people are continuing to drown in inland waters including rivers, ponds and canals than in any other type of water. And in the summer months more people are at the risk of drowning as families flock to parks to relax and cool off. We carried out a study of council-owned parks which have ponds or rivers running through them including Kelvingrove, Queen's Park, Glasgow Green and Rouken Glen in East Renfrewshire.

Although some parks had a variety of safety measures in place including Glasgow Green, which has a map of life belt positions, many others offered little to protect the public from harm, with Alexandra Park in Dennistoun and Rouken Glen among the worst offenders.
Out of four life-belt cases at Rouken Glen, two were empty and a third was too stiff to open. The one ring available was placed fairly high up and a child would not be able to reach it.

Local authorities are required by law to carry out risk assessments in areas used by the public that include water and implement relevant control measures. Failure to do so can result in prosecution. A spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said: "Good weather can mean bad news in terms of water safety.
"We would urge the public to be aware of the hazards, particularly if children are involved."

George Parsonage of Glasgow Humane Society said he would like to see every park ranger trained in rope-throwing techniques and life belts situated in all parks that have ponds or rivers running through them.
He said: "It is not about training park rangers as life-guards.
"It is about training them to do something that doesn't put their own life at risk."

Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death among children aged 14 and under, with children under the age of five at the highest risk. Most of all drownings and near drownings occur between May and August. The latest figures show that 147 lives were lost in inland waters in 2006. Park ponds pose other risks including green algae, which produces toxins that can cause asthma, gastroenteritis, headaches and pneumonia in some people. The water may also be unexpectedly deep with hidden currents or rubbish such as broken glass or shopping trolleys. A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council: "We can't stop people from entering a pond or loch, the Scottish outdoor access law prevents that.”

There are signs that go up during winter to remind people that the ponds are icy." A spokesman for East Renfrewshire Council said life belts in Rouken Glen Park were frequently stolen or vandalised but he insisted that they were replaced regularly.

Warning signs are also displayed next to the water to warn the public about the dangers of green algae. It comes as a major review is being launched into Scotland's water rescue services amid growing concern over the lack of co-ordination and uncertainty over who is responsible. The initiative led by Paddy Tomkins, former HM chief inspector of constabulary for Scotland, will examine the capability of their crews to save people in flooding, coastal water, streams, lochs, canals and abandoned industrial works. Safety check how the parks compared with their provision of basic water safety measures
By Rebecca Gray, Daniel Bach, Ren Deakin

ROUKEN GLEN PARK, Eastwood Toll
Large boating pond has four cases for lifebelts. Two were empty and a third was far too stiff to open. The one ring that was available is placed fairly high up and a child would not be able to reach it. No water warning signs at pond and no helpline call points. Mum Linda Hamilton of Giffnock said: "The fact that there aren't even any signs warning parents and children is a real worry and I think it is shocking that there is only one rubber ring for this entire pond.
"Something needs to be done to prevent an accident here resulting in someone's death."

KELVINGROVE PARK, The River Kelvin
No warning signs. No lifebelts. No helpline stations near river. All the river areas along the Kelvin Walkway are fenced off. Duck pond close to the children's play area is fenced off, but a child over three could easily climb it.
No lifebelts or warning signs around the pond. Helpline call stations are spread across the park, including beside the pond and children's area.

ALEXANDRA PARK - Sannox Gardens
No lifebelts. No helpline stations. Toddler's play area fenced off, but just 10 metres from the main pond and fountain. The water is level with the footpath, with only a few metres of rusted fence at one end. The duck pond at the park's main entrance has slightly more fencing where the bank is steep, but only in sections of a few metres at look-out points.
Lorraine Nolan, 28, is a frequent visitor with her son Archie.
She says it is appalling that there is so little fencing around the duck pond, or even a sign to warn visitors.
"Child safety is vital in parks. I would not let Archie play by himself without me, especially outside of the toddler's area."

GLASGOW GREEN - The River Clyde
There are there are 21 lifebelts along the north bank and 24 along the south bank. Lifebelt positions are marked on maps around the park. River bank well fenced off in main area of park. There are eight helpline call positions spread out across the park. There are two buttons - one goes through to the Access centre and the other emergency button goes through to Streetwatch. When someone presses the emergency button, the nearest of the 15 cameras situated throughout the park turns and focuses on the area/help point.
An alarm bell sounds when the button is pressed to alert staff in Streetwatch. Warning signs instruct people to dial 999 in an emergency. Checks are done on the help-points every Monday.

QUEENS PARK Shawlands
No lifebelts. No warning signs. No helpline call stations. No fencing around either the nature pond or the larger boating pond.

POLLOK COUNTRY PARK, South Side
The White Cart Water runs through the grounds of the park. No warning signs. No lifebelts. No helpline call stations. Park Rangers carry emergency kits and safety lifesaving equipment.

LINN PARK, South Side
Easy access to the White Cart River--No warning signs
Five lifebelt stations, only three full--No helpline call stations.
Direct access to 8-ft high waterfall

Ann McMicheal, 63, housewife, said: "I think there should be more fences and signs. Most folk take notice but there are always ones that don't
Thomas Kaywood, 62, Retired sheet metal worker said:

"The vandals keep tearing the fences down."

Publication date 18/05/09