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Lifeguards will be fewer at Crystal Cove

May 11, 2002

-- Lolita Harper

If lifeguards at Crystal Cove wore belts they would be forced to

tighten them this summer.

State lifeguards are bracing for what could be the most challenging

summer in the past 50 years, said Ken Kramer, the president of the

California State Lifeguard Assn.

As attendance to state parks and beaches has consistently increased,

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state coffers are being drained by the recent economic downturn and

funding for seasonal lifeguards at Crystal Cove is hard to come by.

As a result, Crystal Cove lifeguards will be manning less towers for

fewer hours, Kramer said.

Depending on the number of swimmers in previous years, lifeguards had

the flexibility to open towers early or stay late to ensure safety. This

summer, towers that are manned will be open strictly between 10 a.m. and

6 p.m.

Patrolling lifeguards, who comb the beach in brightly colored

vehicles, will be reduced from two to one. They will also be expected to

fill in for tower lifeguards during break times.

Bill Berry, the deputy director for state park operations, said state

officials were forced to make hard decisions regarding budget cuts.

"It is not something we want to do," Berry said. "It is something we

are forced to do because of reduced revenues from a stagnant economy."

Kramer said officials have been gearing up for the summerand have used

cost-cutting methods all year to save for when manpower is most needed.

"Hopefully, our half million visitors will see very little effect,"

Kramer said.

Still, he is asking the public to be more aware of general safety

precautions while lifeguard services are lean. Kramer suggests people

station themselves close to a staffed lifeguard station instead of trying

to find some desolate area of the beach.

"One of the attractions of our beaches are the serene, peaceful

settings but that comes with a price," Kramer said. "If you seek out a

place where there are no people around that means there are no lifeguards

around. We want people to be aware of what the consequences may be."

Lifeguards only have a few seconds to take action in drowning

scenarios, he said. It is important that they are close to swimmers in

the case of an emergency. Visitors can call ahead of time to check and

see which towers will be open at at what time, Kramer said.

At the height of visitor season -- June 23 to Sept. 8 -- the following

lifeguard towers will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.:

El Morro

Muddy Creek (at the south end of Reef Point)

Reef Point (one tower designated to also watch Scotchman's and 3.5

Cove)

Historic District

South Pelican Point (one tower)

Treasure Cove

For information, call Crystal Cove State Park at (949)494-3539 or

(949)492-0802.

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