Baltimore County is considering stricter regulations for open-water swimming areas that would require lifeguards to pass more stringent tests and reduce the number of swimmers that lifeguards would be responsible for watching.
The proposed regulations, which can be reviewed in public libraries, would apply to six swimming areas: Beaver Dam Swim Club in Cockeysville, Milford Mill Swim Club and Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center in Parkton, all private clubs; and Rocky Point Park in Essex, Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville and the Hammerman Area at Gunpowder Falls State Park in Chase, which are public areas.
Each year, a county committee of public officials and private citizens reviews swimming regulations and recommends changes. County officials hope to hold a public hearing on the latest proposals by the middle of this month and to publish them by summer's end, when they would take effect.
David A.C. Carroll, director of the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management, had asked the committee to examine open-water rules in response to recently strengthened American Red Cross guidelines.
"There were a number of factors that have led to the new regulations. We re-evaluate our pool and bathing regulations every year," said Thomas Vidmar, deputy director of the department.
Vidmar said the county has recommended that each swimming area adopt the new changes before they become law.
The proposed regulations would contain three major policy revisions:
Lifeguards would need to possess certification at the Red Cross waterfront level. Currently, lifeguards must be qualified at the swimming pool level. The higher certification would ensure that all guards know how to use a rescue tube, mask and swim fins.
Swimming quarries must be divided into zones of responsibility, each of which is to be covered by one lifeguard. The maximum size of each zone would be reduced from 3,000 square feet to 2,500 square feet.
The maximum lifeguard-to-swimmer ratio would be 1-to-25, down from 1-to-50.
Gail Walker, owner of the Milford Mill Swim Club, said the club has begun training lifeguards at the higher level.