Pine Creek Beach won’t lack life guards this summer
FAIRFIELD — As the warm weather approached and the Parks & Recreation Department put out its summer information, Representative Town Meeting member Eric Sundman, R-10, took to Twitter.
What upset Sundman was the news that Pine Creek Beach, the smallest of the town’s shoreline beaches, would not be staffed with a lifeguard at any time.
In one tweet, Sundman posted a picture of man walking a dog, and some people allegedly drinking beer — both violations of town ordinance — at Pine Creek Beach recently.
“Very nice man, very nice dog. Very nice kids, with very nice beer,” Sundman tweeted. “The signs say no dogs after April 1st and no alcohol. It’s for a reason. Pine Creek Beach needs attention. Safety here is imperative. We need lifeguards during the week like other town beaches.”
In another tweet, Sundman said people and families use the beach all summer long, rather than dragging their gear to other beaches.
“No lifeguards during the week will create a serious problem with ensuring a safe environment,” he tweeted. “Sign says no dogs after April 1st & no alcohol.”
Sundman acknowledged that lifeguards and violations of town ordinances are two separate issues. Lifeguards cannot issue tickets to people who bring dogs or alcohol to the beach. A police officer cannot be stationed at town beaches at all times so it is up to those who spot violations to call the police at the non-emergency number, 254-4800.
“After speaking to our waterfront staff, we had originally decided not to staff South Pine Creek due to the low number of residents using it,” Recreation Director Anthony Calabrese said, adding this was explained to the RTM during the last budget cycle. “this would allow us to reallocate guards to the heavier used beaches.”
However, Calabrese said, after further discussion they have decided to staff Pine Creek full-time like the rest of the town beaches beginning June 16. “The staff will be tracking the hourly attendance on the beach and in the water daily, and we will re-evaluation at the end of the beach season for the next budget process.”
According to the RTM minutes, Calabrese was asked if all six beaches would be staffed with lifeguards and he said yes, but that Pine Creek could have reduced hours.
Sundman said he was glad to hear that Pine Creek Beach would once again be staffed full-time, and said his comfort level is higher after speaking with Calabrese and First Selectman Mike Tetreau. “This is a safety issue,” he said. “There is no compromise.”
He said he would like a review done of all the town’s beaches to make sure that there is safety equipment available for the public to use for those times when a lifeguard isn’t on duty. Before June 16, lifeguards work from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. After June 16, lifeguard hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. However, the beaches are open from dawn to 11 p.m.
Cell phone service at Pine Creek can be dicey, Sundman said, and when lifeguards aren’t on duty, the landline is locked away. Perhaps, he said, beaches need a phone that can call 911, or an accessible preserver ring and rope.
As for enforcement, Lt. Robert Kalamaras said the department responds to specific complaints and also deploys officers to enforce beach parking “when they are most needed,” during peak hours. Special officers who work at the parking lots are able to issue tickets for parking violation, Kalamaras said, but cannot enforce alcohol violations.