LANE COUNTY, Ore. (KMTR) -- A major water safety effort in Lane County is back again, aiming to take in old life jackets and get them in the hands of those who need them for free.
The Lane County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue started the "Life Jacket Exchange" program in the summer of 2011, collecting old life jackets for re-use.
Now in spring 2012, the Sheriff's Office has a stock pile of about 500 life jackets, all certified safe and ready to give out for free.
Lane County Search and Rescue will hold its first “exchange” event of the season at Cabela's in Springfield in late June 2012.
Search and Rescue Coordinator John Miller helped start the program last summer, simply with the idea of getting more people using life jackets.
Already, the program has re-circulated more than 200 life jackets with safety whistles attached. Miller says he's happy with the progress.
“The program that started with the Sheriff's Office as an idea, but its through all the volunteers that make it a really successful program,” says Miller.
“We've gone from in the mid-90's where we had years of 16 drownings in a season in Lane County, to last year we had two,” says Miller.
Miller says the program is growing in several ways this summer as well which will benefit those who don't make it out to the exchange events.
Lane County Marine Patrol deputies are giving out life jackets on the water when they find boaters without them (boaters will also get a ticket for not having a life jacket.)
With the help of local Rotary International volunteers too, the program has re-stocked loaner life jackets at all county parks. Volunters will also be in-person, giving out more life jackets to new owners at those county parks this summer.
The first free Life Jacket Exchange happens Saturday, June 23rd, 2012, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Cabela's at Gateway Mall.
The Exchange continues Sunday, June 24th, 2012, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. also at Cabela's. Anyone is welcome to pick up or drop off a life jacket at the event, for free.