A lifeguard watches over swimmers this week at Shepard Park beach in Lake George. Although local lifeguards have monitored swimmers for decades without any major incident, the state Health Department is now requiring that the town of Lake George hire an Aquatics Director to preside over the beach activities when the youth in the town summer recreation program are swimming, athough certified lifeguards are already present.
The youth summer recreation program run by the Lake George Youth Commission was inspected Aug. 2 by the state Health Department and was cited for five violations, but town officials are questioning the charges.
Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson reported Monday Aug. 13 that the Health Department has classified the program — on the basis that it has at least five youngsters attending — as a “Children’s Camp,” which requires having a Medical Director on staff as well as an Aquatics Director to oversee the swimming sessions the program offers.
The inspection report said that compliance and issuance of a Children’s Camp permit was mandatory for the program to continue operations.
Town Board member Vinnie Crocitto said Monday that the town’s summer recreation program has been operated since at least the early 1970s without any serious incident, and is well staffed with counselors.
Dickinson said this was the first time in 45 years the Health Department has conducted an inspection, so he was taken aback by the alleged violations.
Crocitto said the Health Department’s classification of the program as a Children’s Camp might curtail swimming if not shut down the program, if left unchallenged.
“We’re concerned this could curtail our program,” Crocitto said.
The inspection report also said that a complete safety plan was lacking.
Besides having an qualified medical director on staff, the program must include obtaining and maintaining immunization and medical records on children attending, as well as keeping a medical log and providing for special medical and dietary needs.
In addition, the program didn’t have a “buddy board” in use, nor employ a buddy system with safety practice routines performed, Dickinson said.
“The state health department is adamant about all this,” he said.
The program is operated five days per week for six weeks during mid-summer. Based at the Lake George Central School bus garage, children play tennis, dodgeball and various ball games on adjacent recreation fields as well as ping-pong in the garage, Crocitto said.
“The kids love it,” he said.
Dickinson said the town was notified that the bus garage didn’t meet state requirements. He said the inspectors said it must have a ramp for access by “campers” with mobility challenges, and needed handicapped rest rooms to be constructed. The Commission was also cited for oil stains on the bus garage floor, he said.
Dickinson questioned whether an Aquatics Director really needed to be hired. He noted that the swimming, which is offered from noon to 3 p.m. at Shepard Park Beach nearby, is conducted under the auspices of the lifeguards employed by the Village.
Dickinson said Monday that he’d be setting up a summit meeting between health department representatives, board members and various community members to see if the “Children’s Camp” classification could be changed, and reach an agreement with state officials to resolve the other issues.
News of the Health Department’s citations sparked memories among board members and town meeting attendees of the agency’s determination earlier this year that Diamond Point Beach had to be locked down when no lifeguard was present. That decision was reversed.
“This is a crazy law,” resident Joanne Gavin said after hearing of the inspection citations.