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Budget Constraints Mean No Lifeguards At Cape Hatteras National Seashore In 2014


Swimmers at three beaches at Cape Hatteras National Seashore will not have lifeguards watching over them next year. Kurt Repanshek photo.

Budget constraints dictated by Congress mean you'll be swimming at your own risk next year at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, where officials will not be hiring lifeguards for three beaches that in the past have had the guards.

Outer Banks Group Superintendent Barclay Trimble said that cut, and others, were made necessary by the parks' current budget. In October, to re-open the government, Congress provided funds at Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 levels through January 15, 2014. Final funding for FY 2014 may not be resolved before then.

"Given our current budget realities and the uncertainty for the future, the National Park Service is exercising extreme caution in spending to ensure that available funding is directed towards the highest priorities," Superintendent Trimble said in a prepared statement.

The following operational changes will occur this fiscal year:

* Cape Hatteras National Seashore Visitor Centers located on Ocracoke Island and the Fort Raleigh Visitor Center will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays from December 2, 2013, through mid-March to early April 2014.

* Lifeguard operations on all three lifeguarded beaches in the Seashore will be discontinued for FY 2014.

* Eight garbage dumpsters located adjacent to beach access ramps along NC Highway 12 will be replaced with smaller trash/recycling containers.

* Temporary structures at Wright Brothers National Memorial will be removed, providing substantial savings on utility and maintenance costs.

Other measures include reducing purchases of supplies and equipment, decreasing staff travel and training, and postponing vehicle procurement. There is also a likelihood of delaying the hiring of vacant positions.

"We wish we did not have to reduce our visitor services, and we know a lot of people will be disappointed, but we had to make some difficult decisions regarding park operations and priorities," said Superintendent Trimble. "The current budget situation does not allow us to have sufficient staff to keep the same number of hours and the degree of services as we have done in the past. We hope the situation changes and we will be able to return our visitor services to their former operating schedules in the future."


NPS taking well-deserved pounding over cutting lifeguards.

"But, at this particular time when the new off-road vehicle plan and the protection of nesting shorebirds and turtles is especially contentious, the argument to cut lifeguards seems especially insensitive or ill-conceived or just plain dumb."

"According to Keene and others, Trimble claims that once visitors step into the water, they are no longer on NPS property and that others should be responsible for their safety.

Come on, Trimble. Really?

And, finally, he told IFP reporter Connie Leinbach yesterday that fewer than 10 percent of visitors use the lifeguarded beaches.

Come on, again. So the 10 percent, many with children, who choose lifeguarded beaches, shouldn't have that option? And 10 percent is quite a few folks in the summer months."

Just more evidence of the continued anti-visitor policies of the NPS.

Squeaky wheel gets the grease, NPS magically now finds funds to provide lifeguards for 5 days per week. I guess the LEs won't get new guns and tazers this year.

OBX Group NPS jeopardizes Ocracoke beach's Dr. Beach National Winner status by not hiring lifeguards for the lifeguard beach.

"In 2007, when Ocracoke earned the designation "Best Beach in the U.S." from Dr. Beach (a.k.a. Stephen Leatherman, Ph.D.), it was specifically the Lifeguard Beach that he recognized. While commending Ocracoke for its combination of unspoiled beaches with a village that provides services for visitors, he also mentioned its high marks for lifeguards, a "stringent requirement" for a #1 beach. Dr. Beach promotes beach safety and considers lifeguards a "hard standard" of quality. "

"Instead of providing lifeguards, the Park is working with a consultant to the public health department, Trimble says, to help prevent drownings."

Is this part of "creating" economic benefit? It is just wrong and absolutely Un-American. How much money will they spend wasting time to do this and have to pay to contract a consultant?!

I agree ^

Well Sara, this drowning incident is only one of the many.

Lifeguarding is actually 3% rescue and 97% prevention. Their job is to educate the public regarding hazards (rip currents, large surf, sting rays, etc.) throughout the normal duty day. Mostly all services do have a night duty response crew.

Cape Hatteras Drownings:

I can continue…..

I find it very troubling that lifeguards provided by the NPS would be even considered to be cut. These lifegaurds do a lot more than just rescue, they provide guidance on some very unforgiving waters.

The hook area at Cape Point, which is now closed most of the spring and summer, provided calmer and safer waters. Closures on ramp 49, with its some what calmer waters, can get crowded because there is no else to go.

With less safer swimming options, no lifeguards, and crowded beaches the NPS is not improving the visitor experience.

That pregnant lady went into the water in the evening around 6:45 pm after lifeguards went off-duty. The lack of funding for lifeguards had nothing to do with her drowning.

Having swum at Cape Lookout and grappled with the long shore currents there, let's hope the national seashore can figure out a way to afford lifeguards next summer.

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