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Pool of local lifeguards has gone dry

Swimmers enjoy Wildcat Lake without the supervision of a lifeguard. Kitsap County Facilities, Parks and Recreation officials hope to have loaner lifejackets in place by next year, but caution families to supervise children when swimming.  - Photo by Erin Beil
Swimmers enjoy Wildcat Lake without the supervision of a lifeguard. Kitsap County Facilities, Parks and Recreation officials hope to have loaner lifejackets in place by next year, but caution families to supervise children when swimming.
— image credit: Photo by Erin Beil

0s and 90s, local lakes are hopping with children of all ages.

Kitsap County Facilities, Parks and Recreation officials want families to remember they are swimming at their own risk.

After two years of funding woes and a reduced pool of qualified applicants, KCFPR does not have lifeguards at county lakes.

“Less volunteers are signing up,” said Chip Faver, director of KCFPR. “We have to start training (applicants) before the summer can start and the pool of talent has dried up.”

Although the county has actively recruited youth to get involved in the lifeguarding program, fewer agencies each year have the funding to provide lifeguard positions. One of the major difficulties facing agencies employing lifeguards, according to Faver, is the constant accessibility to beaches. While pool access can be controlled by hours to maintain a safe environment, people can gain access to beaches 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

“Labor costs are too high, people don’t pay to go to the beach, so where does that money come from?” Faver said of the lifeguarding problem. “It takes about $50,000 depending on the level to which you want to staff (beaches).”

With summer hot spots such as Island Lake, Wildcat Lake and Buck Lake in Hansville operating without lifeguards, KCFPR is trying to implement a new lifejacket loaner program. Department officials are working with Kitsap Safe Kids and North Kitsap Fire & Rescue to try and provide lifejacket kiosks at the swimming beaches they manage.

The program, called “The Lifevest Loaner Program,” will have kiosks stocked with free-to-use “loaner” lifejackets which will be replenished as needed throughout the summer. The first kiosk will be set up at Buck Lake this summer and KCFPR officials are hoping to install more at other locations in 2008. The lifejacket loan program is designed to bridge the gap in the lack of lifeguards.

“This program is working great in the state park system and the Tri-Cities, so we expect good things from it here in Kitsap,” Faver said.

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