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.
A group of local citizens are working in a concerted effort to restructure the town’s youth recreation program, since the state last year classified it as a “summer camp” — an action that threatened its very existence.
Last August, the state Health Department cited the town-operated program, demanding that the “camp” operation needed to have both a Medical Director and an Aquatics Director on staff. The state also mandated that the program officials had to maintain complete medical records on all children attending, and provide for special dietary needs, as well as having specialized equipment on hand. They also objected to its headquarters, the Lake George School District’s bus garage on Mountain Avenue.
The mandates left Lake George town officials aghast. They responded that the program has been run successfully for 40 years without a negative incident.
The Health Department citations have prompted lengthy ongoing negotiations as well as program changes, town board member Vinnie Crocitto reported at the panel’s recent January meeting.
He said that the Lake George Elementary School was being considered as a viable new location for the recreation program, after the Health department deemed the traditional site unsuitable.
The elementary school, Crocitto said, has accommodating, versatile facilities. He added that children participating in the recreation program could walk down the nearby Warren County Bicycle Trail to reach Million Dollar Beach to go swimming, a traditional activity of the program.
The elementary school campus is a prime location for the recreation program, Crocitto said, because of the various indoor and outdoor facilities, including rest rooms.
He said that the school’s lower field is ideal for the outdoor sports-related games, and the Elementary School Nature Trail behind the school offers worthwhile educational excursions as well. Facilities there could host craft sessions, ball games, ping-pong, and many other activities, he said.
Elementary School Nurse Stephanie Smith, he said, has volunteered to help out the effort to reorganize the recreation program, Crocitto said, noting that she might be able to serve as the program's “Medical Director” to meet the state mandate.
Crocitto said the town Recreation Commission has until March 15 to submit its reorganization plans, including a draft of its safety plan. He said that the recreation program counselors will all be certified in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.
“We have the right people on board, and there are some very, very positive things happening,” Crocitto added, praising Smith for volunteering her help, as well as expressing appreciation for the school district’s cooperation. “We’re moving in the right direction.”