The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Lifeguard Cutbacks, Higher Fees at Chicagoland Beaches

By Kalyn Belsha in News on May 23, 2009 5:45PM

Photo by mmmmarshall
The 2009 Chicago beach season may have officially begun yesterday, but cutbacks on lifeguard hours and increased fees to visit beaches may put a damper on your summer sun.

According to the Tribune, Chicago is reducing the number of hours beach-goers can swim by a whopping 30 percent, due to the cost of lifeguards. The Chicago Park District says is will save $700,000 over the course of the summer by cutting hours for the city’s approximately 800 guards.

Lifeguard times will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. instead of 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Swimmers who enter the water when guards are not present could face fines.

The U.S. Lifesaving Association’s President told the Tribune this tactic was unwise. “The reason you've had lifeguards providing services at the time they have is because that's when history shows they're needed,” he said. “The failure or absence of lifeguards means potentially death or serious injury. It's a bit unrealistic to expect that laws are going to resolve your public safety problems.”

A spokeswoman for the Chicago Park District says its research showed not many people came to the beaches to swim before noon. Chicago expects about 20 million people will visit its beaches and lakefront path this season.

To cover the cost of its lifeguard staff, Lake Forest is now charging a $10 fee to non-residents to visit the beach -- an activity that used to be free. Wilmette’s Gillson Park also increased its fees by 5 percent for residents and non-residents alike.