Boots & Sabers

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0701, 24 May 22

No Lifeguards. Two Solutions.

All of southeast Wisconsin is struggling to find lifeguards to staff their various swimming areas. Two of the most conservative areas of the state are taking radically different directions to solve it.

West Bend, via the Washington County Insider.

Last week the West Bend common council voted 5-2 (with alderwoman Tracy Ahrens absent) to seek bids on what it would cost to fill a portion of Regner Park Pond to turn it into a 3-foot wading pond. The early cost estimate was about $100,000.

Waukesha, via Fox6.

Waukesha County Parks beach swimming season will open with Swim at Your Own Risk (SAYOR) hours at six beach locations on Friday, May 27. There will be no lifeguards staffed at any beaches this season due to the labor shortage.

West Bend wants to pour taxpayer money into the pond and eliminate it as a swimming hole. It would take much more money to reverse the decision and dredge the pond again when and if lifeguards are available again. (At the rate of inflation, it might be cheaper to actually fill it with dollar bills instead of sand, but that’s a different discussion.)

Waukesha takes the simple and free approach that respects citizens as competent people who can be responsible for themselves.

West Bend’s approach is something I would expect from Milwaukee or Madison.

Waukesha’s approach is something I would expect to see in… well… West Bend.

Get it together, West Bend. Be more like Waukesha.


0701, 24 May 2022


  1. Merlin

    How long before the first suit lands on the Waukesha City Attorney’s desk after some unsupervised kid drowns? You know, the littles who can’t read yet. Or the older littles who can read but are developmentally not yet cognizant of consequences. Water is a kid magnet.

    Sad that liability avoidance needs to be such a priority, but it does. Beats the hell out of having to stand in front of a half-dozen news crews trying to explain how your signage should have been enough of a deterrent and whining about deadbeat parents who leave their children unsupervised around water. Wouldn’t want to be that guy.

  2. askmelater

    Given that there’s been at least two drownings at Regner in the last 9 years (those are the two I recall…shudder to think there might have been more), WITH LIFEGUARDS ON DUTY, I’m unconvinced the Waukesha approach provides any significant greater risk. In the absence of lifeguards, parents will hopefully assume greater responsibility for watching their children. And the argument that some children lack the ability to read or understand warnings serves little purpose if one body of water is guarded when another body of water (the fishing pond) is completely unsupervised and only a few hundred feet away.

  3. MjM

    Those two, a 6-yr old (2016) and an 8-yr old (last year) were from Milwaukee.

    The first family sued West Bend – also naming the lifeguards as defendants and claiming the water was too “murky” to be safe – and lost. The mother had allowed the young girl to trod off to the pond with 9 other siblings while she stayed at a birthday party at a nearby picnic area.

    The 8-yr old’s aunt admitted he didn’t know how to swim.

    When you abdicate your responsibilities you are the owner of the consequences.

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