A recent tragedy at Kidston Beach has some swimmers asking whether lifeguarding hours be extended in the summer, when the sun sets late.
Two candles and a small handful of flowers were laid out on the lifeguarding chair at the Spryfield beach, where a 15-year-old boy drowned on Thursday evening.
Nova Scotia RCMP estimate the teen was lost in the water around 7 p.m., about two hours after the last rotation of lifeguards left for the day at 5 p.m.
The Halifax Regional Municipality closed the beach on Friday morning out of respect for the young boy’s family.
Most visitors to the nearby Chocolate Lake Beach on Friday had already heard news of the community’s loss.
“That hits really close to home,” said a mother of two, nodding her head in vigorous agreement.
“Later at night is when children want to go out more, especially when parents are getting home from work. Five o’clock is just too early.”
Another visitor, sitting in the sunshine on a blanket with his wife, expressed similar views:
A third guest, who lives not far from Chocolate Lake and counts himself as a regular, said extended lifeguard hours in the summer would be “ideal for safety,” but he questioned its practicality.
“I believe it would be very difficult to try to cover 12 hours a day on every beach in HRM. You’d have to have an army of lifeguards,” he said.
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According to Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service, which patrols 23 beaches across the province, there’s a “very, very precarious shortage” of qualified lifeguards in the province.
That means the organization has to prioritize, explained director Paul D’Eon.
“The ability to extend hours is somewhat problematic at this point, so we try and get the lifeguards on beaches during the peak times,” he said in an interview.
“We call it the ‘four o’clock exodus.’ People are going home for dinner… it starts dwindling by 5 p.m., not a lot of people left on the beach. You try to use your resources for the busiest times.”
Halifax Regional Municipality spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spry said that for now, the municipality will stick to the status quo. Although it regularly reviews its policies, she added, to ensure they’re serving the public interest.
“At this time there’s not a plan in place to extend our lifeguarding supervision, but there could be something in the future,” she told Global News.
Kidston Beach is closed until further notice, but the HRM is offering free swims at the Captain William Spry Wave Pool on Friday.