By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
In addition to the sound of the waves, children’s laughter and the incessant squawking of seagulls, sunbathers at three beaches in Sea Isle City’s north end will hear something else this summer: a lifeguard’s whistle.
But that’s a good thing.
Sea Isle has decided to add lifeguards to the beaches at Third, Sixth and Ninth streets to protect swimmers in an area that is growing in popularity.
“I think it will give people a huge amount of comfort knowing that they can go to those beaches with lifeguard protection,” Sea Isle Police Chief Tom McQuillen said.
McQuillen noted that the north end beaches have been getting more crowded in the past two years.
Two public parking lots containing a total of 185 spaces were built in 2019 between Fourth Street and Eighth Street, making it easier for people to access the north end beaches, he said.
At times, some of the north end beaches were packed last summer, underscoring the need for lifeguard protection, McQuillen explained.
“We saw a very noticeable uptick in usage in the north end beaches this past summer,” he said. “There’s certainly more people in the north end beaches than ever before.”
Having three more lifeguard-protected beaches to choose from will also allow people to spread farther out along the shoreline for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Certainly that will be an extra factor for social distancing,” McQuillen said.
Renny Steele, chief of Sea Isle’s Beach Patrol, said surveys that were conducted in the past two years showed that it would be beneficial for the city to have more lifeguard protection at the north end beaches.
Lifeguards will occasionally rush to the city’s north end for water rescues and medical emergencies such as heart attacks. However, having them stationed there on a regular basis will dramatically reduce the response time for emergencies, Steele pointed out.
Sea Isle will begin lifeguard coverage for the summer on five beaches on Memorial Day weekend. As the summer tourism season grows busier, lifeguards will be added to more beaches each weekend in June until the full complement is reached by the end of the month. Lifeguards are scheduled to begin protecting Third, Sixth and Ninth streets on June 23, Steele said.
Traditionally, Sea Isle’s lifeguards protect the beaches from 24th to 92nd streets. By adding Third, Sixth and Ninth streets, the Beach Patrol will be expanding into the far northern end of Sea Isle.
Steele, however, said that lifeguard coverage on the three new beaches will depend on having enough manpower. He estimated that the city will have to hire an additional six or seven lifeguards this year to make that happen.
Mayor Leonard Desiderio said in his State of the City address last week that the 2021 municipal budget includes funding for additional lifeguard protection in the north end.
“We’re doing this in response to requests from the public, and the apparent increase in the use of these beaches since the new parking lots were built at the north end between 4th and 8th Street,” Desiderio said in his address.
Sea Isle needed approval from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to add lifeguards in the north end beaches because the surrounding area has been designated as a nesting area for migratory birds, Steele said.
Steele said the DEP has asked Sea Isle to have the lifeguards prevent any beachgoers or dogs from disturbing the nesting areas or the dunes. He noted, though, that no bird nesting has occurred there in about 10 years.