Flagler Beach cutting down on lifeguard-patrolled area this year

Some locals worry about safety because of it

If you head to Flagler Beach this summer, you might notice fewer lifeguards keeping watch. City leaders said because of funding and staffing levels, this year you’ll only see lifeguarding along the length of the boardwalk.

FLAGLER BEACH, Fla. – If you head to Flagler Beach this summer, you might notice fewer lifeguards keeping watch. City leaders said because of funding and staffing levels, this year you’ll only see lifeguarding along the length of the boardwalk.

“What we’re trying to do is use the resources we have effectively and give predictability to the public, so they know exactly where the guarded beach is,” said city manager William Whitson.

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There will be two fewer guard chairs starting this summer, and only about a half-mile of beach along the boardwalk will be patrolled. Flagler Beach is the only beachside municipality with lifeguards in the county and Whitson said hiring lifeguards is competitive right now.

“Our expenses are going up, we had to raise the pay of the lifeguards to be competitive to draw the talent we needed,” he said.

The city hopes to have 23 guards again this year but it’s losing 12 of its most experienced, so it’s hoping more recruits come in by this summer.

Whitson said some guards left for areas that pay more so they gave them a one-dollar raise. To stay in budget, though, it’s reducing some guards’ hours so there will be more part-time employees.

“It’s about making sure that we take the funding that we have available and making it go as far as we can,” he said.

Some locals aren’t too happy there will be fewer eyes on the water, though.

“A lot of people have discovered our little beach town so it’s starting to get busier and busier,” said Elizabeth Martinez.

Outside of Z Wave Surf Shop where Martinez works, there’s a sign with a link to a petition to keep the lifeguard stands active. Martinez thinks with more crowds coming, it could be unsafe.

“There’s a lot of people coming to the area and I myself, I have two young children and we go a little bit further down the beach a little bit away from the pier and we want to have protection when we’re there,” she said.

Lifeguard season in Flagler Beach runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day.


About the Author:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.