Beach Commission tackles lifeguard shortage

Revenue at Easton’s Beach for daily parking totaled about $850,000 from May through August, essentially matching last year’s figure over the same period, beach administrator Erik Reis told the Newport Beach Committee on September 7. However, the shortage of lifeguards continues to be a problem.

“The writing has been on the wall for lifeguard shortages for many years,” he said. “We will continue to work with what we have. We usually see a decline over the last week or two. This year was really bad. This is basically par for the course around the state.

During the last week of August, as many high school and college students returned to class, the city had to reduce the lifeguard staff at Easton’s Beach from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The area of ​​the beach that is manned by lifeguards has also been reduced, Reis said. A number of former lifeguards were called in to help the last weekend in August.

Beach and town staff are now reviewing the season and trying to come up with solutions.

“Obviously that’s a problem, and that’s obviously something we need to discuss and come up with a plan to improve numbers and retention,” Reis said.

He said the city has tried to partner with nearby universities in the past with minimal results. He also said the city has been working with local high school swim teams, but little has been achieved.

“All public beaches in the state are in competition with each other,” he said.

There were 35 lifeguards in July, who were paid $18 to $25 an hour, depending on experience.

Separately, Easton’s Beach was closed by the Rhode Island Department of Health due to high levels of bacteria in the water for four days this season, including two in August.

Carousel Restoration

The commission also pushed the city to expedite the restoration of the Easton’s Beach carousel. The carousel has not operated for more than two years after several beach facilities, including the building housing the carousel, were found to be structurally deficient in a 2020 study.

In July, the commission sent an email to the city requesting maintenance of the carousel while the city works out a long-term solution for the beach facilities. The city administration asked Reis to contact a maintenance provider to begin the process. Reis told the commission that he contacted Amusement Associates, the company that performed the final maintenance on the carousel. He also asks permission from contracted architects to allow maintenance crews to enter the carousel building.

A DBVW Architects report on the condition of the beach facilities is expected to be finalized and submitted to the city next month.

The Commission welcomes a new member

Roan Iribarren was appointed to the commission on September 7, replacing Parker Sizeland, who resigned in July.

Iribarren hails from Middletown and has spent the past six years in Newport. He is currently studying political science at Salve Regina University. Iribarren said he felt it was time to contribute to the community.

“I do a lot of research on the beach environment on dunes and sea level,” he said. “I like working with the public. I like to communicate with the city government. I thought it was about time I joined a commission or helped with the beaches.

The Beach Commission, which has an advisory role to the city council, is made up of nine members appointed by the council for a three-year term. The commission oversees maintenance, operations and activities at Easton’s Beach.