The View From the Chair

This is in response to the Neighborhood News story “Lake of Ire” [August 13] and the two subsequent letters that followed [August 20]. As a former lifeguard for the Chicago Park District, I have dealt with the frustrations of beach patrons firsthand. I hope this letter provides a simplified answer to their concerns. Sometimes I can empathize with them and other times I feel the need to fill them in on reality. Usually you get the bureaucratic runaround from beach captains, or sometimes you deal with senior lifeguards (cops-in-training) on their power trips, but mostly you try to get answers from inexperienced 16-year-old lifeguards. Sure, there is frustration by many patrons who feel they have the right to swim wherever they want, but most are not equipped to do so and are unaware of the tragedy that often looms. There are some areas of the lake where a person can walk out 50 yards before being at chest-deep water, while at the same time there are children close to shore. Children who are being watched by their parents are the exception and not the norm. Many times I had to choose between allowing a swimmer to walk out to their chest or staying close to shore to watch an unattended child. The adult walked away angry, but the child went home. The fact of the matter is, the CPD policy saves lives. During the average Chicago summer, millions of people flock to Chicago beaches, and there may be one drowning at a publicly patrolled area per summer. This is why the current policy has been in effect for decades, and will not change any time soon.

Name withheld