Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

As Visitors Head for the Beaches, So Do Lifeguards; Many Areas Are Beefing Up Their Number of Guards for This Weekend's Activities

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

As Visitors Head for the Beaches, So Do Lifeguards; Many Areas Are Beefing Up Their Number of Guards for This Weekend's Activities

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon

With the 65th annual Beaches Parade set for Sunday, all the Beaches municipalities are stepping up lifeguard patrols to brace for a huge influx of visitors this weekend.

In Jacksonville Beach and Atlantic Beach, city officials are returning beach patrols to full strength for the first time this season. Crowds have been increasing at the beach each weekend for the past few weeks, but officials expect a full onslaught this weekend.

"We used to start gearing up in April, but the Beaches opening weekend is always crowded," said Atlantic Beach Assistant City Manager David Thompson, who oversees lifeguard deployment. About 20 lifeguards will be working there in 11 towers this weekend. They'll also have trucks patrolling the shoreline.

"I think there's always a lot of enthusiasm this time of the year ... the crowds and the people and the activity," said Thompson. "We got some new guards coming on this year and then people coming in from Jacksonville and all over."

In Jacksonville Beach, Ocean Rescue Capt. Thomas Wright said they'll need every lifeguard available. Since Ocean Rescue doesn't start using paid guards until June, Wright said about 40 guards from the American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps will be on duty, especially Sunday. They'll work about 22 towers in shifts. It's the first time Jacksonville Beach will be at full strength in lifeguards this year.

"Week after week we've slowly put more guys on the beach," Wright said Tuesday. "It was really cold this winter, then you get a couple of warm days ... and we weren't at full strength and everyone was coming out. They were tired of being pent up.

"It's what we do. It's come to that time of the year, everything's in working order," said Wright.

In Neptune Beach, Police Chief David Sembach said he hasn't hired the full staff for lifeguard patrols yet. He usually waits until local college classes have let out, to hire students on break. But the city is putting two lifeguards in a truck to patrol that beach for the weekend. …

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