March 11, 2014

By Staff

State park lifeguards worth considering

The park manager at Lake Sammamish State Park is asking Issaquah to consider chipping in for lifeguards at the beaches on Lake Sammamish. The idea is worth considering, but the city must protect its interests.

The state ran a pilot program of placing lifeguards on the beaches in 2007 and 2008. In that time, the number of average daily visitors to guarded beaches rose from about 178 to 267. Considering it sometimes takes time for word to spread of a new program, it’s likely that many of the visitors in the second year heard about lifeguards and made the decision to come to the beach because they knew they and their children would be safe.

If the increase in visitation continues, with a commensurate increase in revenue from fees to enter the park, it would help offset the costs of hiring lifeguards for the swimming season. From a fiscal standpoint, the lifeguards would quickly pay for themselves.

Beyond the money, there is the obvious reason for lifeguards — they save people’s lives. But there are other more subtle reasons.

Having guards on the beaches would also mean another set of “official” eyes in the park during the busiest season. They can help direct visitors to park facilities.

The new guards’ job description could include things like helping chase away (not kill) the geese whose poop fouls the beaches.

Certainly, Issaquah residents would enjoy the benefits of having the guards at the park, but they should not be asked to help shoulder the burden without compensation. The park is a regional facility owned and operated by the state. As such, city residents, as residents of the state, are already supporting the park.

Asking them to pay again through city taxes could be a bit unfair. If the city is going to proceed with helping pay the expenses, it’s only fair that the city also share in the additional revenues generated as a result of the program.

Lifeguards would benefit everyone; the cost of them should not be shouldered only by a few.


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