No lifeguards this summer? Future of New Buffalo lifeguard program in doubt

WSBT 22 photo

New Buffalo leaders are still debating the future of the city's lifeguard program.

They didn't set any money aside in the budget for this summer or next. Some people are pretty unhappy about that.

Even on a beautiful day like today, they say the Great Lakes can be dangerous. Swimmers need to be protected from those dangers.

But leaders with the city say that protection isn't real, and is a liability.

I can't employ enough qualified lifeguards,” said David Richards, city manager. “We are creating the illusion of providing a lifeguard service, which I don't think is fair to the community or to the beach users.”

Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project says he's seen lifeguards save lives in New Buffalo. He says the average beach-goer doesn't know enough about water safety.

“If there are no lifeguards and someone doesn't know what drowning looks like, it's going to go unnoticed until they realize someone is missing,” he said.

Then the rescue will be down to the police or fire department, which may not make it in time to save a victim.

"We need first responders there, as in lifeguards, to make the response so that when paramedics are arriving first aid is already being given,” said Benjamin.

City Manager David Richards says it's fairly common to have unguarded beaches.

" I would challenge you to tell me who is providing lifeguarding services on Lake Michigan. Other than Michigan city and St. Joseph on one of their beaches.”

He says Bridgman eliminated its lifeguard program decades ago. Benjamin feels the city has already made its decision to do the same.

Richards says the life guarding issue wasn't even discussed by the council today, other than hearing public comment.

So when will we hear the final decision? At the end of May there will be a public hearing.

Richards says if the lifeguard program is cut, the city won't leave the beach completely unprotected. He says the council plans to add lifeguarding equipment and warning signs.

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