Belgian Idea Suggested For Wasaga Beach
Yes, as some might be surprised to know, there is a beach in Belgium. In fact, this tiny country boasts no less than 70 kilometres of North Sea coastline, and running along this coast is a huge, uninterrupted, beautiful sandy beach. Every summer, thousands upon thousands of tourists flock to the Belgian coast, making its 13 beach resorts some of the world’s most admired vacation destinations.
As a student employee, Dominiek Vervaecke, really got to know the busy beach life during the summer months, selling ice cream on the beaches of several resort towns.
“The freezers from which we had to supply our ice cream, were located in a small building on the beach, next to the Red Cross first-aid post. Lost children ended up at that post and for the first time, I was confronted with so many scared and crying beachgoers and with their parents’ greatest fears”, he explains.
One big playground … and no ‘easy-to-identify landmarks’.
Later in life, Dominiek was even more troubled by the ongoing problem of his own children getting lost, because:
“I soon found out that this can also happen to the ‘best’ of families, including mine!” After this traumatic experience, Vervaecke realized that uncertainty, anxiety and fear can totally take the fun out of a vacation and he vouched to do something about it. With the hustle and bustle of so many people on the beach, the buildings on the dykes often look very similar, the beach surface itself changes constantly with high and low tides and last but not least, the dunes look the same everywhere. It is easy to understand that children, and even their parents, often can’t remember their spot, get confused and lose their bearings trying to find each other. The solution was as simple as the observation: "at places where it is difficult for children to orient themselves, obvious reference points and easy-to-identify landmarks should be placed that allow them to find their bearings” The concept of the ‘orientation poles’ was born! ‘Orientation Poles©’ stand three metres tall and are topped with a fun and colourful object that a child can easily recognize and remember, so that they can quickly find back their favourite spot. No more anxiety, no more children panicking and a worry-free vacation for parent.
After a long search and study of more than two years, many words of advice from engineers and youth education professionals, six specific and unique figures along with fitting colours were established. After testing and applying weather-resistant and UV-colourfast basic materials (for use close to salt water and sun exposure), production could begin. Success! Since 1991, every year 137 Orientation Poles© are strategically placed along the Belgian coast on 10 large, guarded beaches. Positive media attention over the years, both domestically and abroad, has spawned Orientation Poles© in 27 seaside resorts in France, the Lido beach in Venice, Italy, on the Dutch island of Texel and in the most popular Spanish tourist town of Benidorm.
Proven solution with a multi-functional purpose:
In harmony with the visual landmarks on the poles, Vervaecke also thought of designing ‘Orientation Bracelets ©’ that correspond with the orientation pole in the area where the child belongs. The child’s name, a contact cell phone number and the beach location can be mentioned too. Last year, 375,000 of these ‘Orientation Bracelets©’ were distributed from more than 300 stations in Europe to help children be more self-confident while playing on the beach. Furthermore, as it turned out that the Orientation Poles© were so much to everyone’s liking, another very practical idea was developed: the poles were fitted with round information boxes, so that they also served as attractive data carriers and guides for adults. “Thanks to the implementation of this simple idea, the phenomenon of children gone astray and panicked parents has now been taken care of!”
The creator, Dominiek Vervaecke, who invented and developed the system, has since been awarded several prizes, celebrating the success of his invention! It is obvious that this time-tested innovation has become popular in Europe for good reasons.
The Orientation Poles© idea has been offered for implementation on this side of the ocean and I believe that Wasaga Beach, the largest fresh-water beach in the world, could easily champion this initiative with the right combination of support. Wasaga could be the first in North America to embrace Orientation Poles©, helping the noble cause of preventing children from getting lost, making its beaches a fun place to be and creating a safer environment for all involved.
Written by Bob Huybrechts,
President of Innovation Initiative Co-op, Toronto
“A Non-Profit Forum Supporting Innovative Business”
The world’ first Inventors’ Co-op
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