Hunting Island advertises lifeguard openings -- but still needs funding

emoody@beaufortgazette.comApril 26, 2014 

Hunting Island State Park is looking for lifeguards -- even though officials haven't figured out how they'll pay them.

According to a notice circulated Friday, Hunting Island is accepting applications for lifeguards for the first time since 1998.

But while the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism is committed to paying half of the first year costs -- which total $150,000 -- it has asked the Beaufort County Legislative Delegation to find the rest.

State Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, said she and other legislators are working to find the money from other sources before asking Beaufort County if it will chip in.

But as Memorial Day draws near, the state decided to start seeking lifeguard applicants before summer begins, said parks department spokesman Marion Edmonds.

"This is an operational step, while all that stuff is being worked out," he said. "We didn't want to wait and find ourselves really behind in starting the process."

Two weeks ago, department director Duane Parrish said it would take 30 to 45 days to buy the equipment and hire nine lifeguards and one supervisor.

According to the advertisement, the pay would be $9 to $13 an hour for a 40-hour week. Applicants must be 16 or older, have a valid S.C. driver's license, be Red Cross water safety and rescue certified, and have current CPR and first aid training. Expected employment dates are May 20 to Sept. 1, although Edmonds said the start date is not definite.

The ad was circulated through the nonprofit Friends of Hunting Island, local and regional colleges, Marine Corps bases, fire districts and other organizations, he said.

Past park directors have said the lifeguard program petered out because they could not attract qualified candidates. Hunting Island is about 18 miles from Beaufort, and state officials have said its relatively remote location could hinder the search.

Hilton Head Island attorney Russell Patterson began pushing for the return of lifeguards to Hunting Island last fall. Patterson, whose family has a cottage there, said he was spurred to action by three drownings off the park's north beach in July. Six people have drowned in the past four years at the park, Patterson said.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin .

Related content:

Plan to put lifeguards at Hunting Island still in works, April 12, 2014

State parks director calls lifeguards at Hunting Island 'end goal', March 5, 2014

Flag warning system set for Hunting Island; adding lifeguards still being considered, Feb. 1, 2014

Area legislators to help pitch Hunting Island lifeguards plan to state parks and recreation director, Jan. 9, 2014

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