No lifeguards for Poet's Beach this summer - KPTV - FOX 12

No lifeguards for Poet's Beach this summer

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

The city of Portland won’t hire lifeguards to staff Poet’s Beach this summer.

On Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office told FOX 12 the beach wasn’t popular enough with visitors to justify bringing them back for a second summer.

Last summer was the first time lifeguards staffed the beach, as part of a pilot project led by Portland Parks and Recreation and strongly supported by Mayor Ted Wheeler. 

The goal was to increase access to the Willamette River in a safe manner. The city allocated $158,000 to develop the waterfront beach – adding a walkway to the beach, as well as a swimming line in the water, a life jacket station, lifeguards and other amenities. 

Regulars users of Portland’s south waterfront said they welcomed it all.

“Before the lifeguards, we would hardly ever see families down there. With the lifeguards we started to see more families all the time,” said Greg Engrave, who lives nearby and uses the beach often in the summer. 

Michelle Rys visited Poet’s Beach Tuesday afternoon and was disappointed the water was too high to access the beach.

Rys said she just moved to the area over the winter, and heard about the beach a month ago. She said she lifeguards on the beach is a good idea. 

“I think if something were to happen – where there wasn’t a lifeguard – it would never be open again,” Rys said. “So I think it’s something important to have out there.”

A spokesman for Mayor Wheeler said the city compared lifeguard usage at other popular swimming areas, and found they were rarely used. Staff then determined it was still important to keep safety signs and other equipment like swimming lines and buoys in place at Poet’s Beach. 

The decision to cut the lifeguard program comes even as the parks department urged keeping them in place in a report on Poet’s Beach published last fall.

The report says in part, “It is also recommended that any river swimming program continue to provide lifeguards… having trained lifeguards experienced with river conditions is important for public safety and to manage the city’s risk.”

FOX 12 also reached out to Human Access Project, a group heavily involved in the planning and development of the Poet’s Beach project.

A group spokesman said the organization is understanding of why lifeguards won’t be used this summer, and said members are happy swimming lines will still be utilized. 

The Mayor’s Office said officials will continue to monitor beach usage over the summer and adjust safety measures as needed.

Spokesman Michael Cox said it’s important for all beach users to remain aware, safe and responsible while recreating this summer. 

The beach is expected to officially open in mid-July and close at the end of August. 

High water levels of the Willamette River are currently covering the entire beach area. 

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