Monday, September 20, 2021

Swim at your own risk

by Ralph Bartholdt Staff Writer
| May 31, 2017 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Memo to swimmers: It’s up to you. For the second year, City Beach, Coeur d’Alene’s premier all-weather summer bathing destination, will be devoid of lifeguards.

It was not a difficult decision.

“We have not been able to hire enough to adequately staff,” said Sam Taylor, assistant city administrator.

Open-water lifeguards in Coeur d’Alene are joining the plethora of old-school anomalies relegated to photographs and memories.

This isn’t the first summer without lifeguards at City Beach. The same thing happened last year, and it started a year before that, city parks director Bill Greenwood said.

In 2014, seasonal summer lifeguards, who sat atop four scaffolds at City Beach that have since been removed, showed up sporadically. Some days the downtown beach would be fully staffed, and the next day, not enough of the certified guards would show up for work to fully staff the stations, Greenwood said.

City Beach, the largest and most popular in Coeur d’Alene, was the only one with lifeguards.

But, two years ago when the dearth became apparent, the beach opened a week late in the summer as the city waited to hire enough guards, and it closed early in the fall as guards became scarce.

Signs cautioning swimmers to enter the water at their own risk, once a relatively uncommon occurrence at the beach, have since become common and permanent fixtures.

“Last year was the year of no lifeguards, and that is standard,” Taylor said.

The city will have police officers assigned to City Park and Beach as part of their regular downtown beat, and a group of volunteer police Explorers — teens at the police depot near the North Idaho Library in the park — will have direct radio contact with police.

“They have no police powers,” Capt. Dave Hagar of the Coeur d’Alene Police Department said. “But they have a radio, so it’s a more direct link to us.”

Enforcing beach rules, such as leash laws and a smoking ban, has always been the police department’s bailiwick, Greenwood said.

Lifeguards had one responsibility, he said.

“Their duty was to watch the water,” he said. “To scan the water.”

And to make sure bathers stayed safe.

From here forward, the job will fall on individuals using City Beach, as it has always been for sunbathers and swimmers at the city’s other beaches.