At the last Green Lake Community Council meeting, the council announced that, due to budget cuts, lifeguards will not watch over swimmers at Green Lake's east beach this summer.
Although the lifeguards usually do not arrive at Green Lake until after the school year has finished, visitors to Green Lake's east beach already are aware that, if they want to swim at that beach, they will be doing so unsupervised. Signs at the east beach inform swimmers that, although the beach will remain open, there will be no lifeguards to watch over them.
The west beach, adjacent to the Bathhouse Theater, will continue to have lifeguards on duty from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m., weather permitting.
Discussions of cutbacks began last spring when the finance department announced that there would be reductions, said Dewey Potter, communications manager for Seattle Parks and Recreation.
Affected by the cutbacks are lifeguards at Green Lake's east beach, Pritchard Beach in South Seattle, as well as reduced hours at the Green Lake Community Center, from an average of 53 hours per week down to 46 hours per week. Potter said that the wading pool will remain open and supervised, as well as Evans Pool and the Green Lake Small Craft Center. Closing Green Lake's east beach will result in a $41,000 reduction of costs for 2003.
"We decided on east Green Lake because of the proximity of the west Green Lake beach and its superior conditions in terms of changing rooms, showers and available parking," Potter said.
Technically one can swim anywhere at Green Lake, but the east and west beaches have, in the past, been the only areas protected and guarded by lifeguards.
"It is not illegal to swim at un-lifeguarded beaches," Potter said, "but in cooperation with Public Health Seattle & King County and the Drowning Prevention Coalition, we strongly discourage it."
When asked what the response was like at the meeting when the budget cuts were announced, Ref Lindmark, vice president of the Green Lake Community Council, said that people were unhappy and wished that the parks department could work harder to keep the lifeguards.
"Needless to say, people are not happy about budget reductions that have an impact on services, which is why we made all the efficiency and administrative reductions first," Potter said. "Most people, though, understand that flat or lowered revenue forecasts mean expenditure reductions."
Other available parks
Green Lake has had some tough times in the past year. Last fall, budget cuts nearly resulted in Green Lake losing its coveted firehouse, and few can forget how Green Lake in its entirety was closed to swimming due to a toxic algae bloom.
With 6,052 acres (almost 11 percent of the city's total land area) of Seattle devoted to parks and recreation, available activities should not be hard to come by. Swimmers looking for life-guarded beaches can go to seven other area beaches, in addition to Green Lake's west beach: Madison, Madrona, Magnuson, Matthews, Mount Baker Park and Seward Park.
Parks, play fields, pools, wading pools and nearly 20 miles of trails, including the Burke-Gilman Trail, Discovery Park, Green Lake's 2.8-mile loop and Alki Beach all are still accessible.
Children's play areas and neighborhood playgrounds are plentiful, so this summer can still be fun for children as well as adults.