Beachgoers may see a dramatic increase in the number of lifeguards patrolling on Charleston beaches soon. Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commissions Director Tom O’Rourke told Charleston affiliate WTMA’s “Morning Buzz” he hopes to spend about $300,000 next summer for more lifeguards.
“There’s a study that was just done by the tourism council state wide, and it basically stated that there’s five reasons that people come to the beach. One is the beaches, and then second was the safety at those beaches. So, that is something that tourists are looking for, it’s not just to go somewhere, but it’s to go somewhere safe,” says O’Rourke.
On top of that, there have been recent drownings and rescues on Charleston beaches. A Lowcountry woman’s body was washed up on the Folly Beach shore last week, another woman disappeared off of Sullivan’s Island, and three swimmers were rescued from Sullivan’s Island. O’Rourke says some of these incidents could have possibly been prevented with more lifeguards.
“This is serious, serious business out there. It’s not just sitting on a chair and looking. I would challenge anyone in the public to look at our lifeguards, not only there, but in our water parks, you’ll see a professionalism that’s not matched anywhere,” says O’Rourke.
O’Rourke says he does not think the plan will result to tax increases.
“What I favor the most is to have our existing parks do so well financially that we don’t have to go to County Council, get a combination of taxes, or have a tax increase,” says O’Rourke.
O’Rourke says when it comes down to it, the issue is all about one thing: “Safety is one of our 11 core values, it’s what we live by, and I don’t care if it’s one death, it’s too many,” says O’Rourke.