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Monday, July 04, 2005

Thousands Visit Sherwood Island But Find Lifeguards in Short Supply

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Despite a promise by Gov. M. Jodi Rell that lifeguards would be on duty this 4th of July at Westport’s Sherwood Island State Park, thousands of visitors showed up today to find only one of the park’s two beaches with lifeguard coverage.sherwoodnoswimming07040501260.jpg
Visitors to Sherwood Island State Park today ignored a “No Swimming” sign in an area of the East Beach that lacked lifeguard coverage. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Gordon Joseloff/ photo

Six lifeguards were on the park’s West Beach at mid-day, but the larger East Beach � where the crowds were bigger and the waters rougher � had none. Visitors instead were greeted by several signs saying “No Lifeguard on Duty.”

The signs did not dissuade thousands from using the East Beach, some of whom ventured into the water in an area clearly marked “No Swimming.”

“They’re still undergoing training,” said Park Supervisor Toby Buff, referring to the lifeguards, when reached by telephone in mid-afternoon. “We have lifeguards on the West Beach and we hope to have the whole beach covered in a couple of days.”

Thirteen guards were hired last week after the park’s 10 lifeguards earlier quit, citing low pay, non-working or missing equipment, and expanded duties.

Rell became personally involved in the dispute by issuing a public appeal for replacement lifeguards. In a statement Wednesday, she said the lifeguard shortage at Sherwood Island had been successfully addressed just in time for the busy 4th of July weekend. (See WestportNow June 29, 2005)sherwoodguard07040501260.jpg
A lifeguard keeps watch today over swimmers at the West Beach of Westport’s Sherwood Island State Park. There was no lifeguard coverage on the East Beach. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Gordon Joseloff/ photo

“I am thrilled with this outcome and the public should rest easy knowing that these lifeguards will be on the Sherwood Island beach keeping a close watch on the water and keeping folks safe all summer long,” Rell’s statement said.

“Having lifeguards on the Sherwood Island staff sends exactly the right message. The Rell Administration is committed to treating each one of our parks like the treasures they are, and that commitment extends to staffing, salaries, and equipment.”

One of the lifeguards who was on duty said today he believed that some of the replacement lifeguards hired were found to have improper paperwork or other issues that apparently prevented their deployment.

Buff said he believed three of the replacement lifeguards had expired CPR certifications but that they would soon be recertified. He said he was not aware of any other problems affecting the replacements.

Buff said he anticipated about 18,000 visitors at Sherwood Island today following about 16,000 who showed up Sunday.

Westport fire and EMS units responded to two ambulance calls at the beach this afternoon within minutes of each other—one for a man who suffered a seizure, another for a child with a back injury.

Police Chief Al Fiore earlier expressed concern about the lifeguard problem at Shewood Island. He said not having the beach fully staffed had the potential of requiring increased calls for service there by Westport personnel. (See WestportNow June 28, 2005)

Posted 07/04/05 at 09:06 PM


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