When a beach-goer gets heat exhaustion or gashes a foot against the rocks at MacArthur Beach State Park, medics will be able to reach him or her much more quickly.
The park has a new, $12,000 utility vehicle that paramedics or park staff can drive through a new crossover directly onto the beach, shaving off response time. The paramedics can securely lock a stretcher into the back, thanks to another $1,000 the Friends of MacArthur Beach State Park pitched in to modify the vehicle, said Executive Director Cheryl Houghtelin.
MacArthur’s situation is unique in that the parking lot is separated from the unguarded beach by a 1,600-foot boardwalk across an estuary, stairs and a wooden ramp. Most other state parks have beaches that are easily accessible from the parking lot, said Don Bergeron, assistant bureau chief of the Florida Division of Recreation and Parks, District 5.
The new vehicle is vary narrow, so it will easily fit down a dirt path that parallels the beach, Houghtelin said.
Until now, park staff or paramedics would take the seats off a tram, grab a stretcher, run down onto the beach and load the person onto the tram’s flat bed. All of that maneuvering took 38 minutes, Park Manager David Dearth said.
With the new apparatus, Dearth estimates it will take about 14 minutes to get to a person who needs help.
North Palm Beach paramedics will train themselves and the park staff on how to use the specially-outfitted utility vehicle.
“This just speeds up that process, allows us to get to the patient in a more expeditious way,” North Palm Beach Fire Rescue Chief J.D. Armstrong said. “This is phenomenal. This will take us everywhere we need to go and get the patient back where they need to be.”
Armstrong said paramedics aren’t at the park often, but when they are, it’s usually for a serious medical issue.
MacArthur Beach State Park is the first of more than 100 state parks to have the utility vehicle for emergency use. That’s because of the initiative of the park’s management, said Bergeron.