Lifeguards on South Padre Island come with fee increase

In just a few days, a sign at the entrance gate of Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island warning beach goers about no lifeguards on site, will need to be replaced.

That TMs because come June 30th, there will be seven lifeguards on watch high above the sand there.

Cameron County officials reached an agreement with the Town of South Padre Island, which put a beach patrol within city limits, three years ago.

The county will pay $107,000 to help expand that beach patrol program to station seven lifeguards and watch towers on Isla Blanca Park and 2 lifeguards and watch towers at Andy Bowie Park.

The tenth lifeguard will be used where needed.

Every time there's a drowning, (the issue) comes to surface and people want us to provide lifeguards, Cameron County Parks Director Javier Mendez said. We wouldn't have been able to do it ourselves because it would've cost (the county) more money."

Fernando Garcia of Pharr, said this is good news, since he spends nearly every weekend on the Island, and has even has witnessed close calls.

"Two months ago, one guy got (caught) in the tide and had a lot of trouble to get out, Garcia said. Some people (helped him) and the guy was (rescued)."

The lifeguard program will run from June 30 to September 4th this summer.

Next year, Mendez said, the lifeguards will be in place starting in March, increasing the cost to $247,000.

However, the added safety measures come at a price. Mendez said starting July first, beachgoers will pay a $5 fee to enter the county beach parks " a $1 increase.

Eric Garcia of Brownsville, said the increase is a small price to feel secure.

"It's better to be safe and have your kids in the water and have someone (to rescue them if) something were to happen, Garcia said.

Mendez said the agreement with the Town of South Padre Island is in place for the next three years with hopes of expanding the program to beach access five and six.

The fee increase will apply to these two access points, but for now there will be no lifeguards there.

The fees collected at those beaches will be used for capital improvements, Mendez said.