By: State Senator Katy Ives
The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is responsible for the stewardship of over 450,000 acres of land which include parks, beaches, forests, pools, skating rinks and campgrounds. DCR lost nearly 400 full-time positions (31% of its workforce) in the last seven years. As such, we need to be vigilant to ensure that public resources and access to those resources are not diminished, and ensure that public safety is never compromised on account of budget constraints.
Recently, there were rumors that Salisbury Beach would not have lifeguards on duty until Father’s Day weekend, starting June 17th. Residents were concerned that there would be no lifeguard coverage for the busy Memorial Day weekend.
Our state’s public waterways and parks are envisioned to offer people of all ages the opportunity to swim and recreate without significant expense, so it is critical that the public has the assurance that lifeguards will be posted when the summer season begins.
I reached out to DCR Commissioner Leo Roy to inquire about the status of lifeguards on Salisbury’s beaches and he responded quickly and helpfully to confirm that starting Memorial Day weekend, lifeguards will be at Salisbury Beach every weekend until June 17, and after the weekend of June 17, the beaches will be staffed with lifeguards on a daily basis, with specific morning start times and evening end times.
In 2016, Salisbury Beach lifeguards made 44 water rescues and reunited 43 people, almost all children with their families. It is critical that lifeguards be on duty at both Salisbury Beach Reservation and Salisbury Beach Center starting Memorial Day weekend and for the duration of the summer. Equally important to having lifeguards at the beach is the training of these lifeguards. Salisbury Beach has very strong rip currents, cold water and an undertow, which makes having trained lifeguards essential in time-sensitive situations.
The Department of Conservation works hard to continue delivering services and maintain properties with constantly shrinking budgets. During past state budget debates, I have supported amendments to the budget to increase DCR’s budget for operational costs. This type of investment is good for residents of Massachusetts and makes us a more attractive tourist destination. I will continue to advocate for increased funding for DCR.
I am relieved to know lifeguards will continue to be on duty at our beaches, as it is a matter of public safety. And, I will continue to voice opposition to any proposals to raise fees for Massachusetts residents to be able to access their parks, pools, rinks and beaches because it is a matter of fairness. If Massachusetts cannot budget to keep public resources and assets truly public, then state budget priorities need to be adjusted.