State lifeguard shortage continues
State lifeguards are shifting more safety duties to beach patrons,
imploring them to please beware of the fact that public safety
resources are extremely limited for the third consecutive year
because of dire financial straits.
Mike Tope, the Orange Coast district superintendent for the
California State Parks, said he is feeling the crunch all along his
stretch of the beach, from Bolsa Chica to San Onofre. He said it is
essential for parents, as well as other patrons of the coastal
playground, to understand that there are fewer eyes looking out for
“We are trying to do the prevention thing and lots of public
education to remind people that at this time of year our services are
pretty scarce,” Tope said.
In 2002, lifeguards braced themselves for what they called the
most challenging summer in the past 50 years, said Ken Kramer,
president of the California State Lifeguard Assn. Since then,
tightened belts have become the rule rather than the exception, and
lifeguard officials have simply had to make due.
State Parks and Recreation officials have cut back on hiring
“seasonal lifeguards,” who are part-time employees called in for the
hottest and busiest times of the year, said Roy Stearns, a spokesman
for California State Parks. Because of the reductions, aquatics
safety officials are calling on the public to be aware of the
decrease in protection.
At Crystal Cove there are only two full-time lifeguards, whose
services are relegated to patrols, Tope said. The patrol schedule
will be supplemented by part-time work shifts but no towers will be
manned until May 1, he said.
May usually marks the beginning of the “busy season” at state
beaches, but with Southern California’s mild climate, crowded beaches
are a year-round concern, Tope said, citing the recent heat wave.
“Four years ago we would have towers staffed, but this year for
Spring Break and weekends in April, we will have no one,” Tope said.
Officials said guards will be forced to provide the best
protection they can given limited financial resources. Last year,
state park lifeguards rescued a record 10,539 people, approximately
10% of all those nationwide, according to the United States
Lifesaving Assn. statistics. The majority of those rescues were done
by seasonal lifeguards, said Alex K. Peabody, the aquatic specialist
for the state parks department.
Park officials encourage the public to pay close attention to
safety signs as they enter the park or access beaches, to swim
directly in front of staffed lifeguard towers, where they are
available, and to contact their local state park office to learn the
locations of the most safe swimming areas.
“Folks really need to heed all safety warnings and gauge their
water-safety skills depending on the conditions,” Tope said.
* LOLITA HARPER is the Forum editor. She also writes columns
Wednesdays and Fridays. She may be reached at (949) 574-4275 or by
e-mail at email@example.com.
All the latest on Orange County from Orange County.
Get our free TimesOC newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Daily Pilot.