Letter: Extended lifeguard service would improve beach

To the Editor:
Your recent interviews with the Kovar family and with Grand Bend’s CAO on the tragic anniversary of the drowning of Jule Kovar is much appreciated, although such an event is never celebrated but remembered with sympathy and serious regret. Jule’s drowning, and this summer’s death of Ryan Albrecht under similar circumstances, remains an indelible blemish on the town and tourist community we are.
I really appreciate your personal recall of conversations with the Kovars. Their pain and loss are unimaginable.
Also, the research you did, and interview with Mr. Byrne, the Lambton Shores CAO, reveals in easy to understand terms the program in place, which is out of balance in the financial terms and in terms of the timing that the municipality allots for beach protection by lifeguards.
Even nowadays, conservative institutions like banks do not run 9-5 services. So why in heaven’s sakes would a tourist safety service have such short hours of lifeguard hours, and limited safety equipment on site until the last drowning sparked the return of lifesaving rings on the beach.
With the great amount of revenue generated each summer mostly by visitors to the parking lots, offset by the  $48,000 cost of seasonal lifeguard service, clearly there is room for a much greater expenditure for this protection service, both by extending the hours and increasing the personnel needed. Maybe, just maybe, next year, with the much ballyhooed beach enhancement underway, someone at council will ask for and get the funding to allow more personnel and less bricks and mortar, especially with the past evidence and practices of ignoring town assets and policies, such as the current beach bathroom/structure and main-street parking, and streetscape.
We can expect much greater parking revenue in 2009 as there will be more spaces at the beach, and likely some type of metered parking system on the main street. In light of the changes coming, let’s not allow mediocrity to be an acceptable standard on the beach or Main Street. Grand Bend can promote itself as the best and safest beach on Ontario’s West Coast.
Blue Flag beach designation does not require live lifeguard protection, but hopefully we would continue to allocate a large dollar value to keeping that in place, whether it comes from parking revenues or from the ever-increasing tax base from residents and business. But clearly, taxation need not be the source to provide this service or to pay for the planned Beach Enhancement.
I look forward to this beach being renovated, and being the tourist draw it should be, but with sensible first-class concepts and ideas that maintain focus on the lake and beach; after all, the plans are to leave the lake and pier in place for the foreseeable future. Future generations will be left with the legacy of maintaining the new structures and maintaining this community assets and spirit of Grand Bend going forward.
Again to those families whose lives have been permanently changed by drowning deaths in this community, our heart felt regrets and sympathy in very inadequate.
Robert Webb
Grand Bend