-- Lolita Harper
If lifeguards at Crystal Cove wore belts they would be forced to
tighten them this summer.
State lifeguards are bracing for what could be the most challenging
summer in the past 50 years, said Ken Kramer, the president of the
California State Lifeguard Assn.
As attendance to state parks and beaches has consistently increased,
state coffers are being drained by the recent economic downturn and
funding for seasonal lifeguards at Crystal Cove is hard to come by.
As a result, Crystal Cove lifeguards will be manning less towers for
fewer hours, Kramer said.
Depending on the number of swimmers in previous years, lifeguards had
the flexibility to open towers early or stay late to ensure safety. This
summer, towers that are manned will be open strictly between 10 a.m. and
Patrolling lifeguards, who comb the beach in brightly colored
vehicles, will be reduced from two to one. They will also be expected to
fill in for tower lifeguards during break times.
Bill Berry, the deputy director for state park operations, said state
officials were forced to make hard decisions regarding budget cuts.
"It is not something we want to do," Berry said. "It is something we
are forced to do because of reduced revenues from a stagnant economy."
Kramer said officials have been gearing up for the summerand have used
cost-cutting methods all year to save for when manpower is most needed.
"Hopefully, our half million visitors will see very little effect,"
Still, he is asking the public to be more aware of general safety
precautions while lifeguard services are lean. Kramer suggests people
station themselves close to a staffed lifeguard station instead of trying
to find some desolate area of the beach.
"One of the attractions of our beaches are the serene, peaceful
settings but that comes with a price," Kramer said. "If you seek out a
place where there are no people around that means there are no lifeguards
around. We want people to be aware of what the consequences may be."
Lifeguards only have a few seconds to take action in drowning
scenarios, he said. It is important that they are close to swimmers in
the case of an emergency. Visitors can call ahead of time to check and
see which towers will be open at at what time, Kramer said.
At the height of visitor season -- June 23 to Sept. 8 -- the following
lifeguard towers will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.:
Muddy Creek (at the south end of Reef Point)
Reef Point (one tower designated to also watch Scotchman's and 3.5
South Pelican Point (one tower)
For information, call Crystal Cove State Park at (949)494-3539 or