Lifeguards returning to Hunting Island State Park - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Lifeguards returning to Hunting Island State Park

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BEAUFORT CO., SC (WTOC) -

After more than 15 years, lifeguards will soon be returning to Hunting Island State Park.

It started with a grassroots effort back in December after six people drowned in the last four years at the park.

The hardest part is not only funding the positions, but finding the right candidates for the job.

The search is on for lifeguards at Hunting Island State Park. Starting on June 2, one will be on duty to patrol the island's three miles of natural beach.

It's a start, but some visitors believe it won't be enough.

"I think if you have one lifeguard, you can create a false sense of security," said visitor Monique Butler. "What it you're on that beach, or you're on this side and the lifeguard's right there. There's no way one lifeguard can have an eye on everybody."

"If it's a large crowd during holiday weekends, yeah I think it would need more than one," said visitor Tim Cook. "At least one on the north beach, one on the south beach."

Each year, the 5,000 acre park draws more than a million visitors, and many of them come to enjoy the beach during holidays like Memorial Day weekend.

"Actually, the beach looked a lot larger because there were so many people out here," said visitor Raabi Peters.  

Peters is a nurse and believes at least three lifeguards are necessary.

"You've got it looks like one, two, three different beaches," said Peters. "I think it would be good. Great public service for the people. Sometimes in an emergency, you either have everybody responding or nobody responding because everybody thinks that somebody else is going to do it."

State Representative Shannon Erickson said it's been difficult finding applicants who meet all the life-saving qualifications.

For the first year, the South Carolina Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Tourism estimates it will cost more than $100,000 to hire nine lifeguards, a supervisor and equipment.

The state is hoping to split part of the cost with Beaufort County which is considering a local three percent accommodations tax to pay the lifeguards.

The county's Finance Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday afternoon to provide $50,000 toward the first year costs. Two more lifeguards are currently going through the hiring process.

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