Lebanon Fire District debuts life jacket program at river parks

The Lebanon Fire District is rolling out a new life saving program just in time for the height of the summer swimming season.

Lebanon residents and visitors will now have free access to U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets at three permanent kiosks located at popular swimming areas along the South Santiam River.

The life jacket kiosks are located at Gill’s Landing near Lebanon’s River Park on east Grant Street, as well as in Waterloo Park near both boat ramps.

The concept of loaner life jackets is not new; the City of Albany has a similar program. But this is the first time the free program has been offered in Lebanon.

People can visit any of the kiosks and follow the life jacket check out and sizing instructions printed on the kiosks. A waiver form is provided and required to be signed and deposited into a locked box prior to using a jacket.

Initially, 14 jackets will be available at each kiosk on a first come-first served basis. Sizes will range from infant to extra-large adult, and jackets are intended to be used on a same-day basis and returned to the kiosk immediately after use.

The jackets will be red and have the Lebanon Fire District name and logos prominently displayed on them to identify lost jackets and deter theft.

Lebanon Fire District Division Chief Jason Bolen said the program has been long overdue for Lebanon.

“We know that the river gets a lot of use during the summer and we want to make sure that everyone has the means to be as safe as possible while they enjoy being on the water. We’re very proud to provide another community service to our taxpayers and visitors, and we’re grateful to our community sponsors whose generosity allow it to be a free program.”

Bolen and LFD Deputy Fire Marshal Ken Foster presented the idea for the program to Lebanon Tourism Committee board members in March and that resulted in a $4,500 tourism grant from the committee, funded by City of Lebanon hotel taxes.

In an effort to keep costs low, Foster designed and constructed the kiosks himself, with in kind or cash contributions from local businesses.

“This was a true community effort to get this program off the ground,” Foster. said.

“Every person I talked to about this project asked, ‘How can we help?’ and their donations of materials, time, and services are the reason this program is up and running today.”

In addition to the tourism grant, the City of Lebanon and Linn County waived the required permit fees for the project.

Stability Engineering provided the structural engineering services at no cost, Briese Custom Concrete donated the concrete and finish work for the kiosk pads, and Summit Ace Home & Garden provided building materials at wholesale cost and gave a cash donation to the project.

Kerry Whitlatch Farmers Insurance Agency donated funds to outfit one kiosk with life jackets, and Gateway Imprints donated a large portion of the materials and design for the kiosk signage.

Foster said that the current plan is for the jackets to be available for public use from March through October.

Jackets will be collected and stored indoors over the winter months to protect them from the elements and to prevent water and mold damage.

Jackets will still be available for use during the winter months but will have to be picked up and dropped off from the fire station on West Oak Street.

The kiosks will be inspected weekly to check for missing or damaged straps, buckles, and jackets. A stock of spare jackets will be maintained by the fire district and a small annual budget will maintain the program in future years.

“This program is just another great example of how the Lebanon Fire District is always striving to provide more services to our community, and how the business community of Lebanon is always looking for a way to step up and get involved in making their town a little bit better and a little bit safer for everyone,” Bolen said. “This community is truly amazing, and we’re proud to serve them.”

An official ribbon cutting for the life jacket kiosks will take place at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, at at Gills Landing. The community is encouraged to attend and see the new kiosks firsthand.

For more information on the life jacket program, contact             LFD Deputy Fire Marshal Ken Foster at (541) 451-1901 or kfoster@ lebanonfire.com.