By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sea Isle City is expected to add lifeguard protection to two more north end beaches as it looks to expand coverage in an increasingly popular part of town for the upcoming summer season.
The Beach Patrol will take on the extra responsibility of guarding the beaches at 13th Street and 18th Street, according to a list of all the beaches that will be protected in 2022.
During a meeting on Tuesday, City Council is expected to approve a resolution establishing the beaches that will have lifeguard protection along the length of the island between Third Street and 92nd Street.
Although 13th Street and 18th Street are new additions, coverage on those two beaches will be “dependent on lifeguard availability,” according to the resolution.
In 2021, the Beach Patrol added lifeguards at Third, Sixth and Ninth streets in the first round of expansion into north end to protect swimmers in an area that is growing in popularity.
Two new 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.
“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,” Mayor Leonard Desiderio said while announcing lifeguard protection at Third, Sixth and Ninth streets in his 2021 State of the City address last February.
Previously, lifeguards would 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, Sea Isle officials pointed out.
Traditionally, Sea Isle’s lifeguards protected the beaches from 24th to 92nd streets. By adding Third, Sixth and Ninth streets last year, the Beach Patrol expanded into the far northern end of Sea Isle. Now, lifeguards will have an even bigger presence in the north end as part of plans to add 13th and 18th streets – providing more protection for swimmers in the process.
“The Sea Isle City Beach Patrol is a very proactive organization that takes its job very seriously,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said Friday. “Many of us consider Sea Isle’s beaches to be the safest at the Jersey Shore because of the dedication of our lifeguards year after year.”
Sea Isle will begin lifeguard coverage this 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 13th and 18th streets on June 25, according to the Council resolution.
“We’re very, very proud of our lifeguards for all they do for the community year after year,” Custer said.
Lifeguards are on duty in Sea Isle throughout the summer season up until Labor Day. After Labor Day, a few beaches may continue to have lifeguard protection during the week or on weekends through September, the Council resolution says.
In 2021, Sea Isle had 102 lifeguards, but Beach Patrol Chief Renny Steele said in an October interview that he hopes to have 108 for the 2022 summer season.
Sea Isle’s Beach Patrol dealt with the continuing challenges of the pandemic, staff shortages that required some lifeguards to work six or seven days a week and the added responsibility of protecting more beaches during the busy 2021 tourism season.
Steele said in the October interview that the city is considering the possibility of increasing the pay for Sea Isle’s lifeguards as an extra incentive to join the Beach Patrol.
Sea Isle’s lifeguards make $110 per day, compared to $155 daily for lifeguards in neighboring Avalon and Stone Harbor, he said.
A number of towns along the Jersey Shore faced lifeguard shortages during the 2021 season because they competed with the private sector for higher-paying summer jobs.
To entice more lifeguards, Stone Harbor and Avalon increased their starting pay for guards in 2020 from $12.50 to nearly $20 an hour.