News

No lifeguards at Five Mile Lake

By PAT JENKINS

Editor

In order for King County to save $52,000, swimmers in Five Mile Lake won’t have lifeguards watching out for their safety this summer.

As part of a $9 million budget cut for its parks in 2003, the county eliminated the seven to 10 part-time and temporary lifeguard jobs at Five Mile Lake Park for 2003.

A Parks Department spokesman said “No lifeguards” signs will be posted near the lake’s beach and other locations in the 27-acre park, including the entrance, no later than the week of June 9. That’s roughly the time in past years that lifeguards started being on duty through the summer months.

In addition to Five Mile, a popular recreation spot just east of Federal Way that’s open from 8 a.m. to dusk, the county had lifeguards at two other county parks –– Lake Wilderness and Luther Burbank –– and contracted with Sammamish to provide them at Pine Lake. All are budget casualties this year, totaling $52,000.

“It was a really great service we just can’t offer this year,” said Logan Harris, parks spokesman.

No decisions have been made on whether lifeguards will return to county lakes next year.

The county still has lifeguards at its four swimming pools, including Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatics Center. To cut expenses, other county pools have either been closed or transferred to cities, such as Kenneth Jones Pool in Federal Way.

While swimmers at Five Mile Lake will be on their own, Steel Lake Park, which is operated by the city of Federal Way, will have lifeguards. Craig Feldman, aquatics coordinator for the city, said there will be at least two on duty starting June 21 and continuing through the Labor Day weekend in September.

Federal Way’s budget is $18,000 for lifeguards, including the 12 high school and college students watching over swimmers.

Feldman said he expects families with young children will flock to Steel Lake because of the lifeguards, while older children and adults likely will continue to swim at Five Mile.

Despite lifeguards’ best efforts, drownings can occur. One last year at Steel Lake and another two years ago at Five Mile happened with lifeguards on duty, Feldman noted.

He added that 75 percent of drownings are alcohol-related. Impaired judgment puts people in lakes in places where and when they shouldn’t be, he said.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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