Central Okanagan Search and Rescue in dire need of new home

COSAR hall in rough shape

No drinking water. A washroom converted to file storage. Not enough parking. A non-central location.

The list of problems with Central Okanagan Search and Rescue’s headquarters near Kelowna International Airport is long.

The volunteer organization made a presentation this week to the Regional District of Central Okanagan, detailing the need for a new home for a group relied upon by residents throughout the region.

COSAR traces its roots back to 1954 as the oldest search and rescue group in the province. About 50 unpaid members are on-call at all hours 365 days a year.

The report to the regional district this week suggested a new eight-bay building would cost $2.9 million, excluding land costs.

COSAR says the RDCO was sympathetic to the problems with the current location, but funding is a huge issue.

“We’ve looked at various SAR groups around British Columbia and realize funding is a challenge for everyone,” said COSAR president Brad Trites.

“Over the last few years, several search and rescue teams around the province have received significant support from their communities to help fund buildings that meet the growing needs from increased demand of SAR services.”

“Support has come through a variety of sources such as generous leasing deals for land, as in the case of Rossland SAR.”

“Other teams in the province, such as Nanaimo and Kamloops, have received support from local philanthropists who have provided significant donations to help achieve funding needs.”

“Our team handles everything from technical backcountry rescues to searching for lost children and elderly individuals with dementia. Everyone in our community potentially benefits from the services provided by our team of highly trained professional volunteers.”

It is believed COSAR will have to vacate their current hall at 4680 Old Vernon Road in seven years when the city-owned property will be needed for airport expansion.

But even if that clock wasn’t ticking, there are major shortcomings with the building that need to be addressed.

Due to the lack of an office space, files are being stored in a washroom, leaving just one gender-neutral bathroom that is not adequate for when all 50 members are meeting.

Meeting space is also too small, forcing the group to meet in its unheated vehicle bay at times. The building’s water is not drinkable and there is no stove to boil water, so bottled water must be brought in.

Parking is tight, forcing members to use the adjacent dog park lot as overflow, but that is often full. The building is also not entirely secure from break-ins, so any new facility needs to be designed with security as a priority. Finally, members report that the location is far from a central staging point for the area they serve.

COSAR is the third busiest volunteer search and rescue organization in Canada and is expected to handle more than 100 call-outs this year.

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