FAIRPORT HARBOR, Ohio — An ideal summer day is made up of sun, sand and swimming—and you can find all of that at Lake County’s Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park.
Sarah Bissett said she brings her kids to the beach about two-to-three times a month.
“It will tire them out. They like the sand. They can build. They can go run,” said Bissett. “Fairport is nice and clean and it’s shallow. The lifeguards are also on top of it.”
Seth Begeman, the chief of outdoor education for Lake Metroparks, said safety is the metropark’s top priority.
“Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park is our only park that we have lifeguards,” he said.
The extra eyes in the sky are comforting for Bissett.
“You always do that head check and then knowing that there’s other ones who are higher above you and, sometimes, they [kids] listen to lifeguards better than their moms,” she said.
Even for more experienced swimmers like Ryan Roach, it’s nice to know there’s someone on duty.
“Sometimes kids are outside in the restricted area, so it’s good to hear them on the microphone or the megaphone telling ‘Hey, make sure you’re in the area,’ because there are people on the jet skis and boats. It does feel good when there’s someone there looking out for anyone potentially drowning and in trouble,” said Roach.
Begeman said, typically, Lake Metroparks has a rotation of 15 certified lifeguards on staff, but this summer the organization only has 6.
“We just don’t have the help and employees and staff,” he said.
Begeman said the organization began advertising for guards around May, before the season started. He even offered to train and certify people who were interested in becoming a lifeguard, something Lake Metroparks had never had to offer before. He speculated that the lack of applicants was due to certification courses closing due to the pandemic, which is why he offered the class.
“We promoted it in May and it came to be June, about a week prior to the certification class, and we just had to cancel it because no one was there,” he said. “I was shocked.”
Begeman said it forced them to make the decision to not have lifeguards at Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“We looked at our historical visitation for those specific days, those Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and those are typically lower in our visitation,” said Begeman. “It’s not a decision we wanted to make. I hate making the decisions like that we’ve never done that before but something had to be done.”
The beach isn’t closed on those days, it is just "swim at your own risk." Begeman said the water is rather shallow, but he urges everyone to be careful.
“Water is inherently dangerous. Parents should come prepared, wear life jackets, bring life jackets,” he said.
He noted that if a parent needs a life jacket for their child, they should ask the workers at the concession stands.
Lisa Depretis said she will continue to come to the beach, despite the lack of lifeguards, but will watch her kids even closer.
“It just makes you, as a parent, be more on high alert especially when you have little ones that can’t swim. You just need to bring strong swimmers and just be on high alert.”
Begeman said Lake Metroparks is not unlike other park districts in the area, but hopes to get more applicants soon.
“Even if you’re not a lifeguard and want to become a lifeguard, we will work with you the best we can. There’s hours involved, there’s a lot of training involved, but we will work with you.”
If you’re 16 years or older and would like to apply click here.
You can also call Lake Metroparks at 440-639-7275 and ask for Seth Begeman.