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Life Savers Lost - Borrowed Jackets Not Returned
The empty rack shown here with Tim Dowdy, the City of Riverbanks Parks Supervisor, had 12 loaner life jackets available to the public that were borrowed but never returned. - photo by VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

There is a life jacket station that was custom-made by Tim Dowdy, the City of Riverbank’s Park Supervisor, put together with old spare parts that now stands empty at Jacob Myers Park.

A few weeks ago, Dowdy made his way down to the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District station in Riverbank and borrowed 12 life jackets for public use at Jacob Myers Park. They were on loan to Dowdy from now through September so that people that enjoyed the river could do so by being safe on the water.

“I talked to them (SCFPD) and they were really good about loaning me the life jackets through September,” said Dowdy. “They were like as long as somebody is using them and they are saving lives then let’s do it.”

The fire department loans the life jackets out to the public on a daily basis but you have to check them out with a driver’s license and they do expect them to be returned.

Dowdy was hopeful that a similar check out system wouldn’t be needed at the park, but so far, ‘borrowed’ jackets haven’t been brought back and that puts the loaner program in peril.

There were two youth sized life vests that remained by the time the Memorial Day weekend came around that adults decided to take and have never returned. All the other vests that have been taken for use on the river are also missing in action.

There is a sign posted on the life jacket rack that clearly states in English and in Spanish that they are a “life jacket loaner station, please return after use.”

Dowdy was truly trying to do a good thing for the community to prevent tragic accidents that can occur on the water.

“We are hoping that maybe they get a heart and return the life jackets that belong here,” said Dowdy of those that borrowed them. “Maybe they will see this and go hey I didn’t do a very good thing here because now there could be a child at risk.”

Dowdy is asking the public to return the life jackets that were taken over the past couple of weeks to the loaner station so they will be there for others to use. They are accepting life jacket donations as well so that they can offer them to the public on a day to day basis for the summer.

Any donations received will be taken to the fire department to make sure they are USCG (United States Coast Guard) approved and then they will hang them back on the rack and try again.

“If it continues to happen then we can make a decision at the management level to take the loaner station out or we may actually have to start a check out system or something like that,” said Dowdy.

“The big problem with something like this unfortunately is the honor system, although it’s a good idea, does not (always) work,” said Newton Dorrett, Park Host. “People have this idea for some reason that oh these are free, we can take them and keep them for our use and no that’s not the idea.”

Dorrett explained that a girl in the river had the possibility of drowning recently and if she didn’t have a life jacket on she just might have.

If you would like to donate a life jacket or have a borrowed one to return, Dowdy has requested that you leave them on the rack at Jacob Myers Park which is near the Park Host area.