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New Jersey Beaches Need Extended Lifeguard Hours

Beach towns should extend lifeguard hours to enhance paying visitors' safety.

With a third reported drowning off New Jersey’s beaches in this Summer of 2012, I had a thought (no comments about me having a thought, please.)

Apparently, the drownings, two in Monmouth County (Bradley Beach and Long Branch) and the other in Atlantic City, all occurred after lifeguards were off-duty. Swimmers are all aware there will be no lifeguards on duty at some point at the end of the day. So, bathing, surfing, skimboarding, boogie boarding, wading, fishing, etc, are all done at the risk of the individuals that choose to do so at that time of the day. I understand these are the conditions, however, everyone has to pay to get on New Jersey beaches, right?

You mean to tell me that with all the cash coming into the respective towns via beach badges, parking, umbrella rentals or whatever beach related items that can be collected, there isn’t enough money or lifeguards to extend monitored hours on New Jersey beaches? I think not. I bet towns turn away many prospective lifeguards every summer because towns believe they have enough staff to maintain a safe swimming enviroment.

I propose that ALL New Jersey beaches be REQUIRED to staff ALL swimming areas until DUSK. That’s right, dusk. What are we talking about another four or five hours? The towns can even shrink the swimming areas to be monitored by roping off a section for patrons (everyone is a patron remember, due to a fee to use the beach.) Swim outside this area and you will be fined (more income that towns love to collect.) This will even increase the towns’ take, because they can continue to collect at the entrance until the dusk “closing.”

Listen, this will never eliminate drownings at any beach, but it sure would be a step in the right direction to try to make the beaches a safer place to enjoy by New Jersey residents and vacationers (see I didn’t say Benny or Shoobie.)

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Fatboyz June 12, 2012 at 11:07 PM
I'm with u my brother....life guards are'nt paid much and most are highschool and college kids............or maybe gates.. to close boardwalk beach access?? may help too..... or beach patrol on 4 wd quads to check the beaches until dusk.. like on the westcoast...
Shelly June 13, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Or maybe swimmers should just heed warnings, use common sense, and swim between the hours of 10:00 and 5:00 when lifeguards are on duty. By extending the lifeguard hours, the beach fees would be raised even higher than they are now. It's getting to be so expensive for a family of four to spend a day at the beach, between the beach fees, parking and something to eat, it's almost unaffordable!
Vinny Varvaro June 13, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Shelly - you are correct about the many fees you pay to enjoy the beaches. My point is since you pay these fees, I am sure there is enough left over to pay some extra guards a 4 hour shift to monitor a section of the beach designated for swimming until dusk. Unfortunately, all people do not heed said warnings. Towns say pay to get on the beach from 10-5 and we'll protect you, but after 5, it's free and go at it at your own risk. I'm saying the towns' responsibility should not end at 5......
Deborah Smythe June 13, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Actually, most beaches in northern Ocean County are guarded until 6pm on weekends now. You cannot protect people from their own stupidity. Guarding until dusk is crazy and thinking people will swim in the protected areas is naive. During normal hours of operation, people still swim "outside the ropes," are disobedient to the guards and are clueless when it comes to rip and under currents. Also, quality lifeguards are not as plentiful as you think. The job is often thankless and patrons can be vulgar. Quads routinely patrol after hours. I say ARREST the afterhours swimmers....NO WARNINGS. If you are placing a first responder at risk unnecessarily, perhaps getting cuffed and receiving a hefty fine might be a good lesson. P.S. I'm the mother of lifeguards and would ask that you heed the whistles. My kids are the ones saving you and your families. A little appreciation and a lot of commonsense goes a long way.
Vinny Varvaro June 13, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Deborah - I could not agree more (about arresting offenders), but why is guarding until dusk crazy? All I am saying is make it less tempting (a simple sign that says swim only in designated area or you can be arrested and or fined) and make people think twice after hours. If at worst, we bring this to light and make swimmers pause before entering unmonitored waters, this would be a positive. Stupid people will always do stupid things, and the fact they cannot be stopped is a very true statement. The rudeness is unfortunate, sorry that these protectors have to go through that. What a shame. Thanks for weighing in on this subject, it is much appreciated.
Donna Griffin June 13, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Vinny - I can only assume that ANY guards on duty on a beach place the municipality in a position of liability along the entire stretch. As a result, I would presume that the "Swim at your own risk" directive would be null if you are staffing even one stand. It's important to note that it is not only 1 lifeguard needed to protect a beach. There is a contingency of back-up lieutenants, captains, emergency personnel, equipment and land/ocean vehicles. I can tell you for certain that most beaches are understaffed on a good day....not the fault of the beach patrol, but the pay scale is pathetic, guards must arrive at least an hour early for morning workouts making it a 9 hour day and many are working 6-days/week as it is. Once the college kids leave in August, it is next to impossible to have a full contingency of experienced guards sitting stand. The oceanfront municipal residents make a lot of demands on these kids, but then do not want to fund those demands. Additionally, the after-hours swimmers are usually there because they do not want to pay to get on the beach during the day. Would you recommend having the badge checkers there until dusk as well?
Vinny Varvaro June 13, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Donna thanks for your insight. Why can't the beach towns pay more money to the lifeguards? This would make the job more attractive. Yes, have badge checkers there until dusk. Like I've said, the beach towns must be raking in money every summer and need to apply this income where it matters. Increase the staff at the beaches and pay this staff more, I bet the towns can afford it, they probably choose not to.
Donna Griffin June 13, 2012 at 08:55 PM
You're a nice man, Vinny & I can tell you mean well. Actually, some of the beach towns do pay their guards more (and significantly more). Those are the Federation Beaches, e.g. Ocean Beach 1,2, etc. and Silver Beach. The Monmouth County beaches pay a good bit better as well. Sandy Hook (a national park) probably pays their guards the best of all. Ocean County municipal beaches are not known for their competitive payscale in that regard. Ortley just increased their lifeguard pay but is now having the kids park nearly a mile away and walk to headquarters to start their days. Most beaches do not offer reserved parking for these kids and won't give up a paid public parking spot for them. Leaving for lunch break on a holiday weekend is tough for them & most brown bag it. The thing is that these kids LOVE their jobs. The responsibility with which they are presented at 16 y.o. is pretty huge and the vast majority of them rise to the occasion beautifully. When I hear that a beach goer would jeopardize his own life or that of his loved ones by swimming in unguarded waters, it's sad to say that I do not shed many tears. I think that, as a society, we need to allow people to deal with the consequences of their stupid actions and not burden law abiding citizens with the job or added expense to protect them. Stupidity breeds stupidity.
Joann Sarullo Brendler June 14, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Sorry to say, folks, but there is a very significant reason that extending guard hours will never work. The people swimming after hours are also going to the beach after hours to avoid paying to get onto the beach.
Bunny Bloom June 17, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Lifeguards til dusk will not solve a stupidity epidemic. Most people don't need someone to remind us not to walk on broken glass in bare feet. SMH.
Vinny Varvaro June 20, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Bunny - thx for your thoughts. I'm saying if one person (stupid or not) can be saved with just longer lifeguard hours, it would be worth it.
Vinny Varvaro July 13, 2012 at 07:28 PM
I guess a couple of Jersey Shore towns got the message. Thanks Asbury and Brick!! http://www.app.com/article/20120712/NJNEWS/307120088/Asbury-Park-commends-lifeguards-extends-beach-hours?sf5072657=1 http://brick.patch.com/articles/lifeguard-hours-extended-at-brick-beaches-parking-policy-tweaked

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