Five of Seattle’s swimming beaches won’t open with lifeguards until Wednesday at the earliest, and the rest won’t open at all this summer, the city says.
All nine are closed for swimming right now due to concerns about the coronavirus and four will stay closed due to budget cuts, according to Seattle Parks and Recreation.
City Hall is trying to close a massive midyear budget gap related to unexpected spending on the COVID-19 crisis and to tax collections reduced by this past spring’s economic shutdown.
The Parks Department usually relies on seasonal hiring to staff Seattle’s beaches with lifeguards, but Mayor Jenny Durkan months ago ordered a citywide hiring freeze, so those employees haven’t been brought aboard.
The department planned to open five beaches for swimming on July 1, with lifeguards reassigned from the city’s swimming pools, which are closed due to COVID-19 (other pool lifeguards have been reassigned to custodial work, homeless services and child care), spokesperson Rachel Schulkin said.
The hope was to authorize swimming at Pritchard Beach, Matthews Beach, Madison Beach, Mount Baker Beach and west Green Lake beach (next to the Bathhouse theater).
But the openings were put on hold, based on public health recommendations, until at least Wednesday “due to the spike our region has seen in COVID-19 cases [as beaches are commonly spaces for congregation in the summer],” Schulkin said.
Four swimming beaches won’t open at all this summer, due to the hiring situation, she said. Those are: Madrona Park Beach, Magnuson Park Beach, Seward Park Beach and east Green Lake beach.
The Parks Department has placed large “beach closed” signs at all the swimming beaches “to inform the public they should not be swimming at these beaches,” Schulkin said.
Not everyone will heed the signs; park goers ventured into the water last Sunday at Matthews Beach and Thursday at Madison Park Beach.
For now, some pool lifeguards are serving as “social-distance ambassadors,” reminding people to stay apart and out of the water, Schulkin said.
“Water safety and possible drowning are a very real concern,” she said. “We continue to get this message out on our social media and website, and through media … Our hope is that COVID-19 cases begin to recede in our area, and that our lifeguards can resume keeping folks safe at the beaches.”
The Parks Department will be asking swimmers to congregate in groups no larger than five and to wear masks when not in the water. Its swimming lesson and loaner life jacket programs have been suspended for this summer.