Susan, I love that article! It parallels stuff put out by Avalanche Canada that talks about how despite the (10 fold?) increase in back country skiers over the last decade, fatality rates are actually dropping thanks to better educated parties.
As your article also intonated – I just don’t think ‘people like us’ represent a huge portion of SAR’s expenses.
After rescuing my friend Adriana and her blown knee out of the Duffy with some SAR assistance (thanks to lousy weather they showed up 20 hours into the rescue effort which reminded us that hitting ‘SOS’ on a SPOT does not mean a heli just magically appears), I spoke with the lead SAR tech and asked if he had any advice or pointers for the future – obviously having to call SAR is not Plan A. He laughed and said it was a pleasure to come help a party that actually needed it. We were experienced, prepared and actively engaged in self rescue. He claimed that 99% of their calls were to rescue (and this is a direct quote) “… saggy pantsed f&$%-wits out the back of Whistler.” Honestly one of my favourite quotes ever.
I sort of think all parks should be free (at very least for people who live here – I’m not totally opposed to using them as a tourism revenue generator since tourism is a pretty luxury thing), so I’m not wild about the National Parks model for funding rescue. I don’t like the idea of any semblance of an economic barrier to playing outside. One of the best things about hiking is that all you need are a good trail, a pair of shoes and a water bottle (and a map and headlamp)- almost anyone can afford it – so I don’t like adding the barrier of park fees which might inhibit some recently laid off or displaced family from getting outside. I feel like a parents struggling to get by with a little kid deserve to be able to go take their kid for a hike without worrying about ‘what if someone falls and breaks a leg and they need help’.
While I personally feel badly leaning on public resources by calling SAR when necessary – I agree with North Shore SAR and Susan’s article that there should never be a direct cost associated so that people call before things get really dire. Similarly, I don’t like the idea of a fee based insurance plan that once again provides a barrier to lower income families to go enjoy the parks (or wilderness outside of the parks).
I’d way rather the taxes of those who can afford it go up a bit so that everyone can enjoy the parks without barriers rather than ask some recently laid off or displaced family to fork over a few bucks to go camping for the weekend and let the kids enjoy being outside.
Likewise, while most local rescues aren’t for ‘real’ mountaineers but rather for wildly unprepared hikers getting pulled off of Heart and Yam, I would way rather my tax dollars pay for that than pay for their healthcare costs because they chose to spend yet another weekend watching the local sports team get exercise from the comfort of their couch.
And when I start feeling too guilty, I make a donation either directly to the SAR team that most recently helped me out, or to the BC SAR Association in general.
Besides, all those rescued hikers who had no idea what they were doing and got lost while wearing a t-shirt in a snowstorm are just people who need the loving embrace of the ACC to show’em how to do it right.