Lifeguards back on the lookout at Klineline Pond

They return to popular swimming area for the first time since 2010

By Stefanie Donahue, Columbian staff writer

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For the first time since 2010, lifeguards returned to Klineline Pond on Wednesday.

"It's making this a nice place for the community," said Amy Florence, a Clark County resident. "As a taxpayer, I think public safety and prevention is very valuable."

In May, Clark County commissioners agreed to pay for a lifeguard program through the metropolitan park district fund. It will cost up to $120,000 per year for the lifeguards.

Parks staff had hoped to have the lifeguards hired last month, but it took longer than expected. Klineline, which is in Salmon Creek Regional Park, is the only county swimming area with lifeguards.

Florence and her friend, Marlo McIlraith, watched their kids, ages 3 to 11, play in the water on Wednesday. Abby, Eva and Colin McIlraith, along with Elise, Olivia and Ian Florence, made a splash at the popular swimming spot despite the muggy weather and cloudy skies.

Both Florence and McIlraith were not the only ones keeping an eye on the joyful youngsters. About seven lifeguards were on scene Wednesday to lend additional supervision.

"I am just happy to have them," McIlraith said.

For Florence, the lifeguards made her feel comfortable, she said. In fact, she may come back more often, she said.

"I used to come here years ago with the kiddos," McIlraith said. "This is a convenient, nice place to let the kids play." A resident of Washington County, Ore., McIlraith said the lifeguards are "absolutely" important at the location.

Aside from the pond, there are two reservable picnic shelters, a playground and a "sprayground" water feature for those who want to avoid open water. A dozen life jackets are available to borrow.

Lifeguards will be on dutyseven days a week until the end of August and on weekends for the first two weeks in September, said beach manager Patrick Hendley. There are four lifeguard stations around the swimming area.

Eighteen lifeguards and two beach managers were hired at Klineline out of 41 applicants, he said. Most of those hired have previous experience and are from the area, he said.

"The water can be very dangerous, and it helps to have an extra set of eyes," said Jay Winn, the second beach manager. For four to five years, he has been a lifeguard and worked for Vancouver Public Schools and the city of Vancouver, he said.

A lifeguard's job brings something new each day, he said.

All lifeguards working at Klineline have been trained for 32 hours at various public pools and 10 additional hours at Klineline, Hendley said. In addition, they are trained on scene, running through medical, water and search and rescue skills, he said.

Lifeguards work three shifts that overlap from morning until evening. Three to four lifeguards arrive in the morning to set up kayaks and rescue boards, while the majority of guards work from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., he said.

"It is important to note nothing can be a substitute for personal safety," Hendley said. Lifeguards, he emphasized, are not a stand-in for parental guidance. The lifeguards, he said, "are a safety net, but not a safety crutch."